I have been asked, if I can point out some lessons learned from our SNEP study regarding adoption and rolling out new SM into an organisation. Here are five observations and insights from our SNEP study. These observations are helpful for organisations that want to implement social media and for SM promotors and champions:
1. Social media roll-out should be organised as a series of low risk experiments.
It is hard to predict what will happen when rolling out social media. This is due to the openness of such technologies (see Nutzungsoffenheit). The technologies are simple and you cannot deduce from the features the in which it might be useful for your workforce. So, it is much better to approach the SM roll out as a series of low risk experiments rather than a large IT project.
2. Use cases are helpful, but they need to be contextualised
When users face a new technology for the first time they compare it with what they know and see it in terms of features. Over time, as the new technology becomes adopted by others, evaluations shift to a use case view: what can I do with it? These use cases make immediate sense for users. Generic use cases used by technology providers to promote technologies might work for early adoptors who take an interest in the technology itself, but might not be for the average user who does not want to make a big leap in imagination. But they will still see the immediate benefit when others have found good ways of using the technology.
3. Social Media champions need to take the project through the phase of neglect
Our SNEP study has shown that there is a lag in time between the first start-up phase, where early adopters get excited about the new technology, and the eventual organisation-wide adoption. During this phase of neglect the project is at risk of dying off. Here is where promoters or champions need to carry the project. It is at the point of engagement (see SNEP model) that the whole project takes. I think that this point is much significant than the eventual critical mass point!
4. Put trust in self organisation
Our study has shown that the people in the organisation are quite capable of taking care of most aspects of successful roll-out themselves (this does not give any guarantee of course). People, once they see the benefits, are quite happy to take care of promoting and diffusion themselves. The same goes for observing emerging norms.
5. Self-referential communication will make way for productive use after the critical mass is reached
I have been asked: “Why is it that the number of posts (per month) plateaus after the critical mass point?” You would think that this is a bad sign. It’s actually a good sign, for two reasons. 1) The self-referential communication drops off sharply, while productive communication still increases. 2) Users become suddenly aware of the risk of information overload and the community starts posting more deliberately. Finally, we only looked at the two months after the critical mass point; it is likely that the number of posts starts growing after that, even though not that sharply.
If you find these insights useful, take a look at the full report (link below) or the model itself (here).
Riemer K, Overfeld, P, Scifleet P and Richter A (2012) ‘Oh, SNEP! The Dynamics of Social Network Emergence – the case of Capgemini Yammer’, Business Information Systems Working Paper, Sydney, Australia, Access online.