For enterprise social networks, adoption and engagement starts at the top


Whether your company already has a social network in place, or is looking to introduce one here’s what you need to know in order to make it a success. By Peter Hall, senior consultant at WM Reply, a company dedicated to building world-class intranets and solutions to help organizations overcome business challenges.

As technology has improved and the internet and use of the cloud has become increasingly prevalent, the workplace hasn’t just changed; it’s constantly changing. Employees can commonly be found working flexible hours in diverse locations, connecting to each other and the company remotely through collaboration tools like Yammer.

There are numerous benefits for both employees and their employers, so it’s really no surprise a whole range of companies and organisations have been keen to capitalise on the impact enterprise social networks can have for their operations, culture and employee wellbeing. But as with most things of value, creating a network with genuine worth to a business takes time and effort. And while they can undoubtedly provide incredible value to employees and management alike, it is often the latter who hold the key to whether a network will be a true success or not.

It doesn’t really even matter whether you’re about to launch a new social network, looking to breathe new life into an existing one, or wanting to take the next step to help your network reach maturity. Whichever situation you find yourself in, the journey invariably starts at the top. Here are some key pieces of advice to help secure buy-in from senior management and give your network the best possible chance of success.

Getting the ball rolling

If you’re introducing a new company-wide social network like Yammer, you need to make sure you have the right people helping you to launch. Having key stakeholders in your exec, IT and comms teams is vital in creating excitement, sharing information and supporting with ongoing promotion. The simple reason is, you need to be sure the people who are your advocates from the start are also people who can get things done.

It’s for this reason leadership buy-in isn’t optional. You need someone at the top showing people this is a valuable way to communicate and collaborate. You also need that person to be getting their peers onboard to have a wider impact across your organisation.

But what if you don’t have this buy in? It may be there is a genuine lack of interest or resistance to getting involved. But before you consider it a lost cause and resign yourself to defeat, ask yourself honestly: have you really tried? You might need to spend a bit of a time, one on one, showing your exec what the software can really do. For example, let them sit in on a live conversation between employees to bring the concept to life so they can see it working in action. Offer them training so they are confident using the software and know how to really use the network for their benefit.

Make it meaningful

This last point is key, because simply showing them the program’s features isn’t going to cut it. If you want to engage senior management you need to work out how to link your network to a business objective that’s a real concern for them. Show them the tangible benefits your network will deliver.

Be brave, too. Don’t be afraid to link this wider business objective to their personal responsibilities and goals. The more personalised your meaning is for them, the more likely they will sit up and take notice. You’re not asking them to do something for you, you’re giving them something they can use for their own benefit and that of the wider company. Sometimes it’s even as simple as getting your first ‘win’, where they see for the first time the impact they can have on the network and vice versa.

Your work is never done

Even if your network has had fantastic endorsement at launch or in the past, don’t let yourself get comfortable. Take the time to re-connect with senior management fairly regularly to make sure they are continually able to use the tool, in some way, to meet their own objectives. This is critical to remember as your network evolves and matures. Running a successful network on Yammer or equivalent is a journey. It’s all very well if they engage with all guns blazing at launch, but it has to remain consistent, so you cannot afford to lose your business leaders along the way.

This mentality will stand you in good stead in instances such as a change in leadership or business objectives. A once-engaged leader might be replaced with a cynic, or someone who simply doesn’t know much about it. By periodically checking in and always referring back to current business objectives, you’ll be sure to keep your network relevant, useful and ultimately something worth them investing time in.


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