1. Perform A Social Assessment. In order to gauge the growth of your employees' social networking skills and engagement, you need to assess where they are now. "You'll want to make an assessment of your organization behaviors and norms so that you can benchmark change over time," said Jennifer Okimoto, social business consultant, organization & people practice, for IBM Global Business Services.
2. Set Clear Expectations. Set clear expectations from the outset, said Joe Librizzi, a marketing technologist. "If it's outbound social engagement, can employees engage on behalf of the company under their own names? If yes, is a review of the content required before distribution? What boundaries exist on what can be distributed? Who owns followers when an employee leaves? If it's inbound engagement, what is the acceptable balance between work-related sharing and personal sharing? What projects are off-limits for discussion? Setting these limits will inevitably turn some people off at first, but in the long run are critical to ensuring long-term adoption and success."
3. Put Expectations In Writing. Just as companies have acceptable use policies around the Internet, so, too, should they have policies around the use of social networking. Experts agree that such policy should include what employees can't do, but should focus on what employees can--and should--do. In any case, the policy should be clearly articulated, easily accessible, and updated often.
[ Learn more about policies; read Why Your Organization Needs A Social Networking Policy. ]
4. Provide Training. It's a myth that 20-somethings are inherently social media experts and older employees are timid about the technology. No matter who you are or what your background is with social networking, communicating on behalf of an organization to achieve certain business goals is different than posting photos from the Bruins game or wishing one of your Facebook friends a happy birthday. Employees who are expected to spend time on social networking need to be provided with best practices and trained to use the features of each of the platforms the companies will be using--whether internal or external.
5. Get Buy-In From The Top. While it's true the use of social networking allows more voices to be heard, the voices of those at the top should be heard loud and clear. People are much more likely to participate in social networking initiatives when they see that their own managers, not to mention the company CEO, are making use of the technology (and making note of who else in the company is, as well.) "There must be a sense of trust and transparency from leadership in order for social business adoption to take shape among an organization," said IBM's Okimoto. "Organizations with strong executive sponsorship tend to have more permission to really experiment with using social technologies in new and creative ways."
6. Prove Its Worth. You can preach the benefits of social networking until you are blue in the face, but most of us are "show me" kind of people. Share metrics and analytics that demonstrate the value of social networking as widely as possible, including analysis of the kinds of things that tend to push the needle, so to speak.
7. Reward Social Networking Stars. No matter how much your organization encourages the use of the social networking, there will be some employees who do the bare minimum and some who will embrace the change and excel in the use of social tools. Make sure that the latter group is lauded for its accomplishments and that the business value of its work is clearly explained.
8. Don't Be Dismissive. It's important to understand that change is difficult, and that some people may have valid fears and doubts about social networking. Rather than pooh-poohing people's fears, provide a sounding board and actively listen to what they are saying. Perhaps some of their doubts can be allayed by further explanation of the use of social networking and its benefits, and perhaps the company will decide to take things more slowly based on valid concerns that come up during discussions. In any case, an employee whose opinion has been valued will be much more likely to support social networking initiatives rather than fight them.
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