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Organizations looking to implement social solutions face common barriers to success: lack of defined purpose, absence of executive support, unsupportive work culture, poor implementation planning. And while the numbers may seem daunting -- with Gartner estimating that 80 percent of social initiatives will fall short of expected goals through 2015 -- the following guidelines can help set a social initiative on a path to maturity.

What Can You Do?

Taking a measured approach to implementing your social collaboration effort is the key to success. If your social implementation has started as a viral, grassroots effort then you need to shift to an enterprise deployment strategy. Don’t be afraid to “restart” your social project and add the implementation rigor that is needed to deploy it corporate wide.

If you’re starting scratch then you have a clean slate to define the implementation process. Be sure to include the various enterprise groups that will be involved in deploying and maintaining the solution over time like IT, HR and especially the Executive Management Team. Make sure you plan accordingly for the specific goals you want to achieve for your organization and then adapt those goals to the specific business areas that will benefit from using the solution.

By focusing on the following key implementation guidelines your success probability should improve significantly.

Engage Executives

This is an important step and one I cannot overstress as overall usage and adoption will not take root without executive approval and buy-in. Executives will push the approval down through their teams and are key in getting middle managers to buy into the solution. They also provide tacit approval to the employees across the organization through their excitement and engagement, which will spur adoption and engagement from the user community.

Oppenheimer Funds implemented Sitrion (then called NewsGator) in 2010 and initially deployed the social collaboration solution to the executive management team (EMT) as a pilot project. This gave the EMT a chance to work the solution into their day to day operations to see the power and capability that social collaboration could bring to the organization.Sitrion is now a fully integrated social platform within their enterprise SharePoint deployment and is used by most groups and departments across the company. This is a great example of how to get executive engagement and provide top-down engagement.

Start Small

If you’re starting your social collaboration effort from scratch, you should start small. Look for a good candidate group to implement a pilot solution (like the EMT described above). This will give you a good starting point to see what obstacles might hinder your enterprise wide deployment. The pilot group can become your staunch ally in getting corporate wide buy-in from other groups.

Map the Use Cases

Mapping use cases is key to ensuring you are implementing the social solution with business purpose. Adoption and usage will increase significantly if there is a business use that makes the end user’s life easier or allows them to do more with their time. The use cases can be used to document and train users on what the social collaboration solution will provide and how to use it.

Find the Champions

Seek out people in your organization that understand social and the benefits it brings. These resources could be at any level in your organization and will provide you with the ability to scale your deployment across the enterprise. Champions will act as vocal supporters and will be power-users themselves.

Champions can emerge based on their own passion or are handpicked because they have an affinity for social collaboration and are capable of leading or influencing others. Effective champions can help with awareness and lead people to the platform. Persuading certain workers who are prominent community leaders or offline community groups to use the site can help influence employees to join and participate as well.

Plan For and Execute User Training

Your user community is swamped with work so they will initially be reluctant to learn a new tool or process. Be creative about your training plans and ensure that you define training for all types of users from Admins, Champions, Users and Community Managers. Short three to five minute training videos are an effective way to keep users engaged without a significant commitment of time. Ensure you have a training plan that includes specific training for introducing new groups to the solution to ongoing training for experienced users. Provide access to Champions for one on one sessions and hold brown bag lunches to cover social collaboration topics.

One customer I worked with held “Social Collaboration Breakfasts” in the coffee rooms on each floor where they offered breakfast burritos and coffee to employees while educating them on the social platform. Be sure to include training on how to overcome fear in using a social solution. New users who are not familiar with social collaboration will have a natural fear of asking stupid questions or will think they look silly or dumb if they post something to the ESN. This will be one of the biggest training and adoption hurdles you will face -- plan for it accordingly.

Define a Seeding Strategy

Seeding the usage of the social collaboration platform will give you an uplift in adoption and integration with business processes. Look for ways to innovate and come up with ideas on how to use the social solution to improve cross group participation and collaboration.

Content: Adding new and unique content, or moving existing information from other intranet sites to the social network site, can create a reason for workers to visit on a repeated basis. They learn about the social capabilities as they interact with the information they seek.

Events: Use of the platform as an environment for different types of employee gatherings (like corporate announcements, community town halls or YamJams) that encourage employee participation can help with adoption efforts.

Applications: Taking full advantage of how the social networking capabilities can help deliver new types of applications (e.g., corporate directory and expertise location -- these should come from your use cases). Encourage employees to complete their profiles and use the tools to build relationships with co-workers as they solve business problems.

Get the Message Out

Broadcasting the arrival of the social platform is key to creating buzz and excitement across the organization. Using a variety of communications channels to get the message out is critical to gaining adoption. Be creative in your methods and communication channels.

Videos: Posting how-to videos to the corporate intranet is an effective way of showing the end users what real employees are experiencing and how they are being transformed using the platform. The videos should be short in nature and don’t have to be sophisticated in terms of production. Users will get the message especially if they recognize the person in the video as a colleague.

Newsletters: Share the vision of the solution, the successes and the overall capabilities of the platform through regular newsletters. Sending out monthly email blasts that showcase the capabilities of the platform will keep the solution front of mind with the user base.

Corporate meetings: Share specific wins the solution is bringing to the company during corporate meetings. It is important to have people speak about the capabilities and celebrate the success in a live setting.

Signage and posters: Cricket Wireless used posters developed by their marketing department to generate discussion. They utilized a controversial tag line for their Jive based social collaboration platform called Cricket Nation. The posters had an images of the platform with a stylized logo and had a tag line that said “Cricket Nation -- it’s like SharePoint and Facebook had a baby.” This generated a great deal of discussion across the company and kept the implementation of the solution front and center in the minds of the user community.

Following these guidelines should ensure your social collaboration project takes a defined and measured approach to implementation and will provide you with a path to success.

Editor's Note: Miss the first part of this two part article? Read Why Social Implementations Fail

Title image by Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com