Rollout An Enterprise Social Network In Your Company, The Right Way

If you build it, will they will come? The strategy most companies use when adopting an enterprise social network is designed to fail.

In the first part of our three-part series, we discussed two of the most common problems companies face with Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)—initial user uptake, and eventual information overload.  In this article, we’ll show you how to deal with the first problem: getting everyone to start using a new system in first place.

To get users to engage with a new ESN, far too many companies just tell their employees that everyone needs to make an account, provide them with some help documentation, and leave it at that. Every worker having having an account is not the same thing as every worker actually using that account. It’s not even close. If employees are going to use an ESN, they need to understand why they should use it, and, most importantly, how it will save them time. It needs to look useful. Convincing employees to use a new tool is never easy, and to do it, you’ll need to carefully plan your ESN rollout ahead of time. Here are our top five steps which every ESN adoption plan should include:

1. Prepopulate
2. Start small
3. Develop ESN champions
4. Engage the management team
5. Be honest


A system which contains valuable and engaging information is a system that users are willing to try. As exciting as an empty shell might be to curious techies, a new ESN without any useful content will feel like a waste of time to the average employee. Before the rollout, invest time and resources in building a solid base of content that will be helpful for the vast majority of users. It doesn’t have to be a lot—don’t even think about forcing each team to upload all their documents. It just needs to give people a clear idea of how the ESN will be useful for them, and to give them a reason to engage with system. General HR help documentation is a great place to start. Everyone’s always looking for it, and it’s applicable to nearly every person in every department.

Start Small

Do not roll out an ESN to all users at once. Start with a small pilot group, learn from the experience, and use that knowledge to develop and fine-tune your strategy. How engaging and useful did they find the content you prepopulated the system with? Was uptake good? If not, what put them off? Talking to the pilot group will give you invaluable information about how to manage the broader rollout.

Develop ESN Champions

There are always people, in any company, who take a keen interest in new technology. Identify them, bring them together and let them become the cheerleading squad for your new ESN. Get them excited—highlight the ways the ESN could really change the company, and transform the way people work. Give your cheerleaders the time and resources they need to develop guides, processes and support materials for the system. Issue pompoms, if necessary. Show your genuine support and commitment to keep the excitement going. This will go a long way towards supporting and engaging the broader employee population later.

Involve Middle Managers

Establish clear guidelines and expectations for ESN use, and communicate them to team leads and middle managers. They need to understand how the ESN fits into the company’s overall strategy, and they need to have a personal stake in its adoption. Make it a top priority to the mid-level managers. But don’t just set targets. Uptake will be much better if they can see why, as well. Help them understand how it will save them and their teams time in the long term. Get them engaged, and and let them help you drive system adoption.

And Finally, Be Honest

It’s easy to copy and paste text from ESN marketing materials. Don’t. Do not oversell the benefits of the system, and do not expect or demand unrealistic results. The makers of the ESN might tell you it’s flawless, but you know that even the best systems have their flaws. Focus on attainable goals, identify the ways the ESN really will help workers, and position the new system as a win-win for both employees and the company.

If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to getting users engaged and using your new ESN. But as more and more information pours into your new network, you’ll find yourself slamming into the second big ESN problem—Information overload. We’ll show you how to deal with that in final installment in our series on ENS adoption, How To Keep Users Using An Enterprise Social Network.


Alec Pestov and the Meemim team

Meemim, the champion of enterprise social network adoption.


Alec Pestov
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