logoI attended my first SMiLE London event yesterday hosted by the lovely team at Simply Communicate. In the summer of 2012 we launched an online tool to allow collaboration, de-centralised comms and people directories. It wouldn’t be a lie to say we have struggled with adoption ever since. It is our only online platform and while it has many benefits, when it comes to cutting through the noise and being able to see what you need to see to do your job it is not so good. So here I was, keen to understand whether my challenges were different or whether we are all in the same boat….

State of the nation

It was no surprise to learn that those attending the event were mainly using Sharepoint and Yammer as social tools – this was mirrored by the presentations throughout the day – and it was encouraging to see that the thing we are all most worried about is engagement and adoption. One of the main reasons people cited as being their reason for implementing a social tool was to allow people to find other people to share skills.

I’m not alone in the challenge around people tagging and categorising their content as well as making sure that content is kept up to date when people leave. While all that is not shared is lost, having out of date content on a site that can’t be removed or updated is a huge risk for the business. One of the biggest benefits to the social tool is when you on board new people into the organisation. It makes it quicker and easier for them to understand the business and what they need to know to succeed.

Time to play a game

The use of gamification was high with Pearson working with Bunchball to deliver a programme that rewarded behaviour linked to content and how the community responded to what was being shared. I loved this concept as so often we put gamification in place to reward what people do which, for me, doesn’t drive adoption. There were some general assumptions made about ganification and the fact that people like a ‘digital trophy cabinet’ but for me, we have to remember that when it comes to gamifying our content, there are very different gamer profiles that should be considered.

Getting real

When it comes to the senior leaders and getting them engaged it was great to hear we are starting to accept that social isn’t for everyone. If the CEO isn’t keen on comms then they aren’t going to be blogging every week – and that’s ok. Social shouldn’t be a chore, it should be part of how you work or socialise.

I learnt about red, yellow and green dots as ways to categorise people – the greens are totally engaged and the reds are completely disengaged. Don’t spend time on the reds – not adopting the channel becomes part of who they are and it will take you too long and cost too much to try and change their minds. You will never get 100% adoption.

Current trends and where next

The use of mobile came up a few times. Interesting results from one speaker that showed Iphone as the most used handset with Blackberry nowhere to be seen. What was really clear was that people don’t’ contribute content from their mobile – it’s where they receive it. This is an interesting point given all the user generated content we are starting to filter through the comms space.

Middle managers got a real bashing about their involvement in the adoption of these channels – in fact some suggest that middle managers are the biggest blocker when it comes to communication in general. It was suggested that last year we worried about business risk and trust, this year it is the middle managers that we are looking at.

Build it and they will come only works for arks – to quote Dana Leeson. This is something to truly consider when driving adoption. We are all still using email and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future so there was talk of integrating the social tools with email – something I’m pleased is already on our radar.

Making sure the content is relevant was another trend in the day. For me this is the same for any channel. Visibility of that content was the real challenge with some social tools –cutting through that noise can be a real challenge.

Ideas for engagement and adoption

As the arc comment suggests – thinking they will just come on board doesn’t work for social tools. There were some great ideas to engage teams and get real adoption. The badges mentioned earlier was one and the ‘Collaboration in Action Awards’ cited by one presenter certainly generated a small murmur in the room.

Moving away from ‘no email day’ to ‘beyond email day’ that allows you to show off other tools available was another idea that got heads down and scribbling/tweeting. A lovely idea to get people learning about the options available – if they don’t know what it can do, how do they know it can make a difference.

Engaging the mobile worker

Mobile workers can, apparently, be categorised into four different types: information, task, wannabe, mavericks. We rely on them using their own devices to access the content and this links us to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – something I think we are all still unsure about. The reliance on middle managers and the traditional cascade is still very much here. We still have no way of knowing what our mobile workers have been told, and when they were told. Do social tools give us the ability to change that?

As always, some key phrases from the day that I enjoyed:

  • Communities and content should as open as possible and restricted as necessary
  • Are we trying to communicate to or engage with those no desk based?
  • This is not an ark – they won’t just come when we build it
  • Think about audience first and channel second
  • Whatever you provide to a mobile workforce will be appreciated. You are starting with nothing
  • Collaborative knowledge
  • The vision for sharing is to save time

Final thoughts

If you bring social tools into the business you have to consider what they deliver for the audience. I loved the idea of using Chatter or something similar to support a leadership event but when someone asked what this adds to those there it did make me wonder.

For adoption and engagement to truly work you need communications, training and the business owner to be completely aligned. I often feel that our training team are left out of things when they could add so much value!

I was surprised at what appeared to be a lack of consideration for content. There were lots of tools used but this often left the content all over the place – how does that help the user when , for me, they should have one place to go for everything.

Sorry for the long post – lots to cover from the day! Needless to say I’m already signing up as a subscriber to the SMiLE portfolio and will definitely be back for the next event!