Communication and social adoption: a marathon, not a sprint
It’s no secret these days that achieving widespread adoption of social collaboration technologies in an organisation is not easy: you can’t trust viral adoption to get there by itself, and too often I come across stories where initial enthusiasm for an organisation’s new social initiative just petered out after six months or so. There are many different reasons why this happens, but one common issue is that there is simply too much focus on launching the new tool or initiative, rather than investing in a more gradual, long-term process of communication and education.
Of course, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a “big bang” style approach to the rollout and launch – after all, it’s a great reason to jump up and down and point to the new solution and strategy, and to get people’s attention. But unless you continue to nudge or remind people, it’s just too easy – after the excitement dies down about your new toy technology – for people to simply forget about it, especially if they are particularly busy in their day-to-day roles. As the person or team responsible for adoption of your new solution, you need to be focused on getting people to change their behaviour, and this is something that happens gradually over a period of time. Consequently, it’s vital that your communications strategy – and also your education and support strategy – takes a much more strategic path, pressing the message home in a gentle, repetitive way over a period of months, rather than simply shouting from the rooftops and assuming everyone has heard.
There are several things you can do to make this approach more natural and less jarring with your audience. One is to take a gradual approach to rolling out the different capabilities of your new platform; not only can this help to ease users into the new technology more gently (rather than overwhelming them on day one with the breadth of new features and capabilities they need to get to grips with), but it also gives you that excuse to go back to your employees every month or so to notify them of a new feature you are introducing – and of course at the same time, remind them about the tool and the strategy, keeping it fresh and current in their minds.
Another strategy is to use an advocate or evangelist network to help maintain the momentum of your message. I’ve written about the benefits of this approach before, but it can be particularly effective as a way to localise the message for a particular community or audience, thereby not just carrying the message further, but adding additional weight and context to it as well.
My research suggests that around six months is the tipping point for a social collaboration initiative – if you can maintain the momentum beyond that six months point, your chances of success are much stronger. So you need to make sure your communication strategy looks at least that far ahead – that you have the resources and the investment in place to enable this. The best way to overcome people’s natural resistance to change is to allow them to make that change in their own time.
(This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts monthly as an invited Expert Blogger.)
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