Social networking -Part 3- I get it now

In my first blog I raised questions I was interested in exploring about ESNs. In my second blog with the help of a personal example I was able to experience and analyze some of the reasons for resistance by individuals in adapting ESNs i.e. reasons why ESNs can be unsuccessful.

In this blog post I am putting together tips and words of advice about how to get over these bumps and make the jump. This Information gathered from class material, internet research and my own comprehension. So here goes..

Whether we talk in terms of science and brain function (scientific American), psychology (Maslow’s hierarchy – emotional needs of love & belonging), social anthropology or religion, socialization is an important NEED for humans. We cannot do everything on our own and therefore by nature we are interdependent. Humans are social animals and at the center of all human interaction is the WANT for acceptance.

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.

– Aristotle

This ‘Need’ and ‘Want’ if understood and used in the right way can help in the adoption of ESNs. What do I mean by using in the right way?

B.F Skinner’s Learning theory of Instrumental conditioning, where through his experiments with rats in a maze teach us two types of reinforcement – positive and negative.

Positive reinforcement – do right -> get reward.

Negative reinforcement – do wrong -> be punished.

You can introduce and communicate about the ESN in both ways to employees. You can focus on the ‘Need’ and create the fear and sense of urgency by using negative reinforcement OR you can communicate the positive/benefits/pros of using the ESN and reinforce it with rewards like – company t-shirts, gamification rewards, redeemable coupons etc. so that people ‘Want’ it.

Overcoming fear and inducing curiosity are key to dealing with the resistance towards ESNs. To overcome the fear, security needs to be created. Whatever seems scary needs to be made not scary.  It is important to generate psychological safety so that people can express themselves without the fear of rejection and instead now that it is a safe space where they are accepted. A lot of this depends on culture and creating norms around that culture e.g. voting procedures – state the idea and not the name so it is less personal. Create MOOCs and training sessions so that people can get comfortable using the ESN at their own pace.

See this video by staples quickwins where they address blogging for small business owners. It covers why they should blog i.e. the benefits, how they can utilize it to promote the individuals skills which is good for the business, points out options and resources if they have any trouble using them and extra tips which help them be a good blogger. This eliminates the fear and reinforces the positive. They have many short ads of this sort. They are not about ESNs in specific but they do help see what is important to an individual in social media technology adoption.

On the other side of the coin you need to induce the Positive – Inculcate curiosity by creating the buzz, making them ‘Want’ it. Attract people through trust hubs, promote it as something which can satisfy a need, show how it can help learn and perform their work today, and create that tipping point. In the longer run, the positives are what will help sustain active engagement.

Finally by including people in the process of creating or promoting the ESN, people can feel ownership. By teaching them how to use it they have a sense of control. This makes them feel less overwhelmed so that they can enjoy the benefits of using the ESN and explore it further. Thus they engage with it. When people can see the benefits and actually use it to share knowledge and socialize, a few things happen – the network expands both for individuals (personal and professional) and the organization (communities CoPs & CoIs), the directory of resources increases as more things get recorded and categorized on the ESNs and the pool of knowledge across functions increases. All in all there are multiple benefits for both the individual and the organization like alignment, satisfaction, engagement, problem-solving, innovation etc.


Here are a few tips endorsed by people who have actually seen or experienced ESN adoption difficulties-

  • Pick things that matter: Focus on reasons to use the ESN, which matter to the organization and to the employees. Communicate about the ESN not as a technology project but, as to how it is relevant to people’s work and adds value to the organization. Also start with one or two target areas. Be clear about them and publicize the same.
  • Gain leader sponsorship: When leaders get involved in promoting and themselves sharing on the ESN, it promotes trust and importance. It also generates interest because people want to know what the leaders have to say about things happening both internally and externally to the organization. This helps alleviate fear and promote curiosity.
  • Substantial effort is required to increase awareness. It will not happen automatically or in a day. Keep at it.
  • Decide who is promoting it, because that communicates something as well e.g. is it just another technology burden to learn or an integration effort to try out.
  • The 80/20 rule applies here as well. Adoption is 80% behavior + culture + values & 20% technology
  • Highlight examples of use within the company. Celebrate them. It will help people see the benefits/positives of using the ESN
  • Employees adapt at their pace; not yours.  So keep two things in mind – Training has to be built in for those who need it and be patient.

In conclusion, there are many reasons as to why individuals cannot or will not adapt the ESNs. To make the effort successful you need to put yourselves in their shoes and think of how you can address things stopping them from being active engagers. Treat the employees as individuals, as people, be clear on the goals of the ESN, communicate & communicate, and be patient & perseverant.


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