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3 common enterprise social network mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Kristin Burnham | June 4, 2013
Many businesses fight an uphill battle in their enterprise social network deployment: In fact, Gartner predicts that 80 percent of such initiatives fail. Here are the three most common obstacles businesses face and tips for how you can avoid them.

According to research firm Gartner, 80 percent of social business efforts will fail through 2015- a disconcerting statistic for the 50 percent of all large businesses expected to deploy social networks in the next three years.

3 Common Enterprise Social Network Mistakes

A few of the reasons for the failures, according to Gartner Research Director Larry Cannell: adoption and ROI expectations and a lack of executive support, he says.

"Too many people just assume that an enterprise social network [ESN] deployment is going to be simple and that people will pick it up quickly," Cannel says. "And that's just not the case. Social is different from any other project you may have deployed, and you need to put in place certain measures to be successful."

Here's a look at the three most-common enterprise social network mistakes and what you need to do to avoid making them.

1. Don't Assume Adoption Will Grow Organically
"Just because an enterprise social network is simple and easy to use doesn't mean you can build them and people will come," Cannell says. "These tools are going to change how people work and you need to prepare them for that."

In the early planning stages, Cannell says, you need to determine how people are currently working and how an ESN will change that.

"Partner with business leaders to understand what their jobs are," Cannell says. "What information do they need to do their jobs? Who do they work with?"

Then, define clear reasons why employees will benefit from such a drastic-and sometimes uncomfortable-change in process.

"It's not like you can just turn on a Yammer or Chatter network and people will come. Employees need to know what they're used for and why they should care," Cannel says. "They need motivation and an understanding of why they should want to participate." A clear understanding of this, he says, is key to gaining adoption.

Another key to success is embedding the social network into everyday workflow. Managers need to ensure the tools are part of how they get their jobs done every day, Cannell says, rather than just being destination sites.

When business analytics company SAS deployed a pilot of Socialcast, it found itself in an enviable position: Adoption unexpectedly went viral as more than 1,400 employees signed up to use it.

The reasons, according to its team: Executives were excited about the project, they properly trained their employees and promoted the project heavily within the company, they made it accessible to everyone, and they trusted their employees to use it properly.

2. Don't Set the Wrong Parameters for ROI
Any IT project needs to deliver ROI, but the one associated with an enterprise social network needs to be considered differently.


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