Five Tips for Driving Social Media Adoption in the Enterprise

It’s been a year since ReadWriteWeb announced “‘the honeymoon period’ for social media in the enterprise is coming to an end” and warning enterprises to get their arms around a social media policy. There is no question that 2010 saw unprecedented growth in social media in the enterprise and has changed the way work is done. Indeed, companies that failed to get on board soon found that employees were going social without their corporate masters. Where I work, a social media steering committee was formed bringing together corporate marketing, high profile employee bloggers and evangelists, employee communications, Legal, HR and IT.

This year, with their freshly-minted social media policies in place, enterprises seem to be focusing on building a collaborative culture and driving adoption.

I can write from personal experience that driving adoption of social in the enterprise is challenging on many levels. Legal and HR departments have several requirements to be met in areas like eDisovery and employee privacy. HR likely also has additional requirements concerning employee development and recognition. Building and/or implementing social enterprise solutions also takes buy-in and resources from IT – not a forgone conclusion in the current climate of budget constraints and competing priorities for IT spend. Social media is cross-firewall by nature and that comes with another set of IT security concerns.

Once the groundwork has been laid, one faces the ultimate challenge of getting employees to embrace and use the solutions implemented. Typically, there will be a relatively small group of early adopters. Often, there is also an initial burst of interest and activity, followed by a slow decline. So where does one go from there?

Here are 5 tips I’ve used that have proven successful the driving adoption of social media where I work:

  1. Redundancy is your friend. A great place to start innovating in enterprise social media is by replacing legacy systems like a company directory with a new and socially-savvy solution. By leaving the redundant system in place while launching the new “pilot” system you allow for a gradual adoption path. This also gives you the freedom to experiment with the new system and fine-tune it based on user input.
  2. Provide a better tool and they will come. Social collaboration is already going on in your enterprise. People are likely making do with whatever technology they can find to do the job done. A great example of this is an email distribution list, where knowledge is exchanged. Study the usage patterns and behavior and provide a superior solution and user experience.
  3. Reward the early adopters. Get to know your early adopters, listen carefully to them and try give them what they want. After all, they are the best catalysts for driving adoption you’ve got.
  4. Bridge the firewall. Employees lead lives inside and outside the firewall and have identities that go beyond their job title and responsibilities. Giving employees a voluntary way to include information about their external blog site, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other social accounts along with their company-related data will encourage internal adoption. Also, solutions implemented behind the firewall are far more appealing and effective if they work seamlessly outside the enterprise.
  5. Keep communicating. You’ll go a long way to ensuring success if keep repeating the message of what you are trying to achieve and how. Leverage employee communications, give luncheon brown-bag talks, shoot a video, blog. Get the word out and give people a way to respond.