8-Cs of Social Software Success In the enterprise, for departments such as IT, Communications and Human Resources, the most important “customers” are actually internal employees who work within the walls of their own organization.

That’s why, when a company launches an internal social network or collaboration suite, the customer journey map should be focused inward to align with the experiences, expectations and motivations of a typical “employee-customer” during the process.

The 8 C's of Social Software Success

In a social software journey, both employee-customers and internal sponsors follow parallel 8-step journeys toward success. This customer journey map, designed specifically for planning internal social software launches, provides a strong framework that sets expectations and norms for all participants. Ensuring that the 8-Cs for employees and sponsors are aligned in all of the right places will make adoption and engagement efforts successful.

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The 8 C's - Internal Sponsor Journey

The journey into social software success begins with the internal sponsoring team. The first three steps occur before employee-customers are introduced into the community with the goal of setting them up for success in the planning phases.

1. Consult

Sponsors should consult with a variety of internal stakeholders before launching a social network, ensuring compliance with legal, IT and corporate policies. Sponsors should consult with executives to ensure their participation during and after launch, as well as with influencers to take their feedback and incorporate it into a launch and content plan. Most importantly, they should consult with many departments to ensure that the social network is aligned to multiple business purposes.

2. Culture

Sponsors should plan for a social software launch with their company’s unique culture in mind. If information-sharing is already widespread, and an open culture is fostered by leadership, a roll-out and engagement plan can be aggressive. For companies with more formal, restrictive cultures and fewer software-savvy employees, the culture may dictate a slow and methodical roll-out and adoption track.

3. Communicate

The sponsoring team should communicate the availability and value of the social network with culturally appropriate materials. The tone, content and delivery method are critical.

Two excellent and different examples include Philips (using Socialcast) and Tyco (using Yammer). Philips communicated the available of its 2012 “All Employee Jam” on Socialcast via a creative, fun video, signaling creativity and innovation as acceptable behaviors. Tyco announced the migration from an old platform to Yammer with precise, inviting, instructional written materials, tackling possible employee objections head-on to describe business value.

4. Content

Sponsors need a plan for ongoing, valuable content creation especially during the first few months of the community being live. This is necessary so that employee-customers see meaningful, relevant information that will keep them interested and engaged. Ensure participation by executives, regular employees and employ super users and community admins to monitor and create content for various departments, teams and even interest groups.

5. Cadence

It’s not just the kind of content available -- it’s the cadence in which it’s presented. Sponsors need not formally schedule content to broadcast, but they should ensure that a network has consistently relevant and interesting information from all levels of employees. Adding some structure, like monthly CEO broadcasts and weekly training sessions, ensures an ongoing pathway into the community for members.

6. Connect

As employee-customers begin to use the community, sponsors should help connect employees together both virtually and in real life. Connecting experts to information seekers and mentors to new employees will help everyone find value stemming from this virtual space. Additionally, sponsors should connect the community to other business systems in order to spread its reach; from CRM systems to intranets, employees need to be able to find social value in the other tools they already use the most.

7. Celebrate

Thank employees for contributions. Ask executives to recognize employees for their hard work publicly in the community. Host annual events to share business goals that were achieved because of the social network. Sponsors should find ways to celebrate individual and aggregate achievements realized through the community.

8. Capture

The information shared into an enterprise social network is invaluable for current and future generations of employee-customers. Capture official answers, expertise, and curate/publish it so that tribal knowledge becomes a resource available to everyone.

The 8 C's - The Employee-Customer Journey

For most employees, becoming “customers” in their company’s enterprise social network happens well after planning and execution are in place by the sponsors. For the typical employee, the 8-Cs map to their experience in discovering, trying and finally finding ongoing value in the community.

1. Contemplate

What is this social network? Why should I use it? Do I have time? What’s in it for me? Employee-customers will typically contemplate joining and using a social network, wondering how it will impact their daily lives and performance. It’s critical that sponsors understand this natural hesitation, and a combination of strong content and user-friendly learning materials should help them decide to get involved.

2. Consume

New users in a community will first consume information rather than share, and this is a natural step in the evolution of social network involvement. Browsing, reading and lurking in the digital shadows are acceptable activities. However, it’s important that users make the eventual transition to active participation; the sponsor’s trustworthy cadence of strong content-sharing will help employee-customers take that leap.

3. Convert

Consuming information can only be somewhat valuable to users as a social network depends on the propagation of topics by people at all levels and in various topics. Users will eventually gain confidence to post information, whether it is a message, a comment, a document, or even a simple “thank you.”

Users can be converted to posters from consumers by real-life connections fostered by the sponsoring team; this could be a manager’s encouragement or a contest held by executives with tangible, in-person rewards. Meaningful connections between employees and information will grow the number of sharers in the community.

4. Create

Once employees have the confidence to post information, they become creators and curators of content, groups, topics and norms in the community. Individuals will become social leaders and mini-experts, and the social network will give them the chance to both create their own following as well as create content that others find meaningful.

5. Commit:

With a little reinforcement and positive feedback from fellow users, employees will choose to commit to using their community regularly. Integrating it into their daily workflow becomes an important step in guaranteeing ongoing engagement; securing their commitment to participate will happen naturally as they find value.

6. Collaborate

Posting information is one important step, but really becoming a collaborative member of the community is the next evolution in employee-customer participation. Once employees actively use the community, they feel comfortable using it to manage projects, ask hard questions, provide answers to others’ questions and interact in a truly collaborative way. The community shifts from being a broadcast-oriented space to a community of practice and interaction.

7. Correlate

A promotion, a strong performance review, a higher functioning team, surpassed KPIs -- employees using a social network will eventually correlate their offline success with their actions inside an enterprise social network. When the network creates true business value for employees individually and as a team, its value can’t be questioned and it becomes entrenched as part of the culture.

8. Champion

Employees who have evolved from tepid users into those achieving real business value will become champions for the community, broadcasting their success to others, speaking at conferences, helping mentor new users and offering to form groups and teams to further propagate the use of the network. With dozens or hundreds of champions at your company, the enterprise social network takes center stage voluntarily, basking in the glow of the employee-customers who have completed the phases of the customer journey.

Making the 8-Cs Your Own

The 8-Cs have been derived from years of research and experiences launching social networks for dozens of customers -- those who have been both successful and unsuccessful. Because of the vast differences that exist in every company, alterations and adaptations to the 8-Cs will of course be necessary.

But the common thread for all companies who were successful is that they had a plan that significantly aligned with this customer journey map prior to launching their social endeavors. I encourage every company investigating enterprise social software to use this map as an exercise in planning for resources, investigating potential business value, understanding barriers, and empowering the employee-customers for whom a community can be a transformative experience.

Title image courtesy of Dusit (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more from Carrie, see her post The Vendor/Customer Relationship: Top 3 Tips to Get What You Want After Tying the Contractual Knot