Community Management Thinking is Holding Back ESN Adoption

Posted by Bill Cushard on June 28, 2017

Last week, I gave a short talk at an event we hosted at the Rockettoria in Sydney called, Improving Adoption of Collaborative Software with Narrow, High Value Use Cases, at which I argued that running any type of collaborative software with a community management mindset, might be the root cause of the low adoption of enterprise social networking (ESN) software. I cited numerous reports that describe the failures of organizations to to gain wide-spread adoption of social collaboration software. 

My main argument looked like this.

ServiceRocket event about Workplace by Facebook adoption

Assumption of Low Participation

Community management is based on the assumption of the 1% Rule in internet culture. Some called it the 90-9-1 Principal or participation inequality. You might even invoke the Pareto Principle to describe the phenomenon. But if we go by the 90-9-1 Principal, participation on the internet looks like this:

  • 1% of people create original content - Contributors
  • 9% of people react to the content created by the 1% in the form of comments or likes or shares - Editors
  • 90% of people just read the original content and comments of others - Lurkers

When you apply this principle to Buzzfeed or to The Huffington Post or to Twitter or to Linkedin, it makes sense. Most people just read posts and articles and go about their day. Very few people create the content. This phenomenon also manifests itself in customer communities. Take for example large customer communities from companies like General Dynamics, Hewlett Packard, and HubSpot, to name a few. 

The 90-9-1 Principle works.

Here's why.

Community members in the 90%, are customers or may become new customers, or may become better, longer-term customers, even if they never do anything in the community besides observe, get the information they need, and move on with their lives. Effective community managers maximize participation from the 9% and 1%, so that the 90% finds useful information.

So, I am all for community management in these contexts because they drive value, even from the 90%.

You Lost Me at Company Community Management

The wheels come off the wagon, when we try to apply a community management paradigm to an enterprise social network.

Remember, the idea behind the 90-9-1 Principle is that it's OK that 90% of people in the community will choose to not participate, or just lurk. If in the case of enterprise social networking the community is employees, then it follows that we find it OK that employees choose not to do their job.

Obviously, that is not OK.

But a community looks at this problem of participation inequality and asks two questions:

  1. How can we maximize the participation of the 10% to create activity that is valuable enough to keep the 90% coming back to lurk
  2. How can we create programs that empower and inspire the 90% to participate once-in-a-while, but without infringing on their right to lurk

Again. The premise is that it is OK to be a lurker because not everyone feels comfortable participating. 

To drive this point home during my talk, I gave a few examples of what would happen if we applied the 90-9-1 Principle to other common functions at work by asking three questions:

  1. Is it OK that 90% of employees choose not the use the phone to call customers?
  2. Is it OK that 90% of employees choose not to respond to emails?
  3. Is it OK that 90% of employees choose not to attend meetings?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Participation is About Work, Not Participation

Participation on enterprise social collaboration software should be about the work people do every day and about mobilizing people in the pursuit of the organization's mission, whatever that is. If it's just about communicating and building community, it will fail because people already do that without social collaboration software, and the social collaboration software becomes one more thing people have to do. Guess what? They will not use it.


If participation on a social collaboration platform is about getting work done. people will use it. 

What if your employees could do the following in your collaboration tool?

  1. Request IT help by posting a picture of a problem in a group and saying, "This needs to get fixed please?" No fighting with a ticketing systems that forces you to complete fields that are not relevant to you just because the Help Desk is measured on first call resolution. 
  2. What if you could check your PTO balance and book time off with an HR chatbot in the communications platform rather than log in to some HCM system that is clunky and for which you can never remember the password? "I'm sorry," says HR Bot. "You do have enough leave balance to take that time off, but three other people on your team have time off approved already. I just sent a message to your manager to look. You way want to talk with your team."
  3. Organize a team meeting, invite your team, source the agenda, and post meetings notes.
  4. What if you could report a broken glass door in building 4 on the 3rd floor by posting a video of it slamming shut? 
  5. What if your CEO could do a live video meeting every Friday morning and take questions from employees all over the world without the need for a 6 person A/V staff to set up 3 hours early?
  6. What if you could broadcast your video conferences live to your team's closed group and have it instantly and automatically saved to the group so that people who could not attend could just watch the recording to catch up?
  7. What if a chatbot could message you when you have a guest arrive at the office. And if you are running late, you could just respond to the bot and the bot will notify the front desk?
  8. What if there was a natural disaster near your plant in Asia, and you could instantly message all of your people there to check in that they are safe.

That is work.

Those are reasons to use a communications platform.

You don't need community management for that.

According to David Law, writing on the Cisco Blog, "...being a lurker means you aren't doing any work."

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ServiceRocket just announced Safety Officer for Workplace by Facebook, which allows crisis management teams to alert employees and request that employees check in to indicate their current status and location, as appropriate. Workplace by Facebook customers who sign up for Safety Officer by June 30, 3017 will receive the service free for one year. To learn more about Safety Officer, click on the button below.

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Topics: collaboration, Workplace by Facebook, Bots, Enterprise Bots, Chat Bot, Enterprise Social Networking, ESN

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