Captivated by the force that is Gravity Summit, Boston 2009
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Dealing with the Enterprise 2.0 and social media critics and naysayers

Skeptic This past August, I had the pleasure of facilitating a discussion at PodCamp Boston 4 – “How do you get your company to see the value of social media?” This session could have very well been entitled “How do you get your company to see the value of Enterprise 2.0?” and my advice would have been the same.

Recently, a similar discussion came up among members of the 2.0 Adoption Council, and I shared my response with folks in the discussion, and decided to blog on it finally, as I’ve been meaning to for a really long time! 

When we started our community endeavor over two years ago, our success measure was never to have 100% adoption, but rather to build a community of value for employees passionate about collaboration. Once we had several hundred passionate folks engaged and getting value, we continued to work and evolve the community so that it not only continued to provide value to the existing community members, but the hope was also that as the value grows, it would also persuade others to check out the community, join, and contribute. We also actively seek to gather and share success stories, use cases, etc. and post those within the community, as well as include them in our presentations and informational sessions on the community. 

In my opinion, the most important thing that we've really tried to do, which has made a world of difference, is that we've tailored our message to each individual group in terms of use cases and how they can get value from the community. We go into every single meeting with the WIFA (What's in it for the audience?) question at the forefront of our presentation for the stakeholders of that meeting. We learned very quickly that if you tailor the message to their very specific needs, and pinpoint their worst pain points and address how the community can help with some of those issues, it goes a long way towards persuading them to at least give it a try. 

The second most important thing we've done is be honest about the level of commitment required to get a community up and running, as well as sustain it long-term. It's not easy. It doesn't happen overnight. And just because you build it, doesn't mean they'll come! Being honest with each group about the level of commitment required to build and sustain a community and emphasizing the fact that it's a long-term effort to build a successful community has worked wonders for setting expectations. 

Some additional advice I shared at my PodCamp session has helped me a lot in meetings and conversations with folks who are skeptical about the value of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative: 

  • Anticipate possible objections: It helps to try to anticipate some possible objections ahead of time and think of how you'll respond to them. If you can prepare for the objections and think of a response, it will help keep the conversation on point and help you to illustrate/reinforce the benefits for that group. 
  • Acknowledge concerns: You always want to acknowledge concerns - never tell people they're being stupid or unreasonable (even if you think they are!) Concerns are legitimate to the people raising them. You will not convince anyone to join the initiative by ignoring or dismissing their concerns. You also need to acknowledge that not everyone sees Enterprise 2.0 or social media as you do - some folks will need more time to see the value.
  • Engage in friendly dialogue: Engage in friendly and inviting dialogue with the person(s) who are objecting or arguing against the value of the Enterprise 2.0 initiative. Whatever you do, don't get into a heated debate with someone who does not see the value of the initiative. It doesn't do anyone any good and it puts a bad vibe in the way of future conversations. 
  • Respect critical feedback: Everyone's entitled to their own opinions. You don't have to agree with them, but don't dismiss them either. See if the feedback presents opportunities for improvements, further exploration, or even education on misinformation or lack of knowledge or understanding. 
  • Educate where ever possible: Sometimes the critics feel the way they do simply because they don't have the full picture of the features/functions, use cases, etc. Sometimes they just don't know where to start and so they are critical for that reason. Use the conversation or information from the critic as an opportunity for education and see if you can illustrate your value proposition with meaningful examples and case studies. 
  • Accept that social media is not for everyone: Enterprise 2.0 and/or social media is not for everyone and that's ok. If you go into it thinking that success = 100% adoption, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Your job is to provide value, illustrate use cases, benefits, etc. and accept that not everyone will want to use the tool or community. And you know what - that's perfectly fine.

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