What Dance Lessons Taught Me About Social Business

MelissaBarker
Melissa Barker Social Media Manager, Jive Software

Posted on December 10th 2012

What Dance Lessons Taught Me About Social Business

If you have worked with Jive Software's professional services team, you know that the first thing they will tell you about employee adoption of a social intranet is that you should "rely on intrinsic motivators by helping people understand the benefits their involvement gives & gets." However, external motivators are not to be overlooked. Changing behavior in the workplace can seem like an insurmountable challenge as a community manager, trainer, or even executive. I find that the best way to explain the process for overcoming this challenge is through a comparison. Since I've never trained a pet, I'll avoid the potentially unflattering comparison of employees to dogs. I'll go with something that is more familiar to me: teaching someone to salsa dance.

Once you experienced a successful social intranet, it is hard to understand how others do not see inherent value. As someone who has been salsa dancing for years, I sometimes find it difficult to empathize with the plight of someone with two left feet. Before I dive into teaching people to salsa, I want them to be confident in their ability to learn and understand the value of being able to move confidently on a dance floor. While some employees may be confident in their use of social, not everyone has the confidence and understanding of how it will benefit them.

Building Confidence484359_10151165862109716_394609991_n.jpg

Building confidence of someone new to social or salsa requires simplification and comparison. Attempting to teach an entire salsa routine to a person with no experience would be a disaster (--there is too much to remember). Similarly, you wouldn't teach someone how to use every feature of the social intranet out of the gate. Simplification is necessary to build confidence. Have employees start by completing their profiles, following people they know, and starting discussions.  Don't expect them to have their streams perfectly configured and using applications the first day.

When teaching the basic steps for salsa dancing, I start by telling the student to take two steps forward and two steps back, instead of teaching an eight count. Providing points of reference makes it feel much more accessible. You could compare the @mention feature to the CC option in email, explaining how if you really want to ensure an individual sees a conversation, simply @mention and it will appear in their Inbox.

"What's in it for me?"

Answering the question of "What's in it for me?" will make or break your ability to convince people of the value. With salsa dancing, once I see a person is confident enough in the basic step, it is time to introduce the eight count for the footwork and explain the advantages. Going back to the example of @mention and CC, after you've made the comparison it is essential to explain the payoff of the switch. In this instance, you'll want to explain the benefits of creating a discussion as opposed to shooting off an email. Sharing a question in the community versus email has a number of benefits, such as the ability to (1) crowd-source (2) reach experts (3) share the correct answer, and (4) save time for people searching for the same answer.

Second, provide meaning and context. This dances between being an intrinsic or extrinsic motivator (pun intended). Once they learn the basic step, spins, and a few dips, I explain how they will feel comfortable going to salsa clubs and potentially competing at a local level. What does this look like in context of a social intranet? Illustrate how it can help them in their day-to-day work and performance reviews.For the latter to be true, managers will need to make participation part of their employees' performance review.

Additionally, remember that a little pat on the back goes a long way. Learning the basic step in salsa is much easier than dips. If the people I'm working with have really got the footwork down - this is important for me to acknowledge. Although employees may not be active in groups outside of their department, they may be consistently answering questions in a particular group. You can highlight their effort in that particular group by making them a Featured User. Long term, you will want to focus on more systematic and serious recognition efforts.

Let's say you've prepared a blog post or document that builds the confidence of new users and answers the question of "What's in it for me?" Communicating this document is the next step. It is best to use existing communication methods to direct people to your post in the community. As an example, you could create this document in the community and send a company-wide email with a link to the document for more information. Using the existing communication method ensures your message reaches your desired audience and subtly reinforces behavior that you want to encourage (i.e., people looking to the community for information).

Building the confidence and answering the question of "What's in it for me?" for your employees is critical to giving them internal motivation and increasing the adoption of your social intranet.

In my next article, I'll discuss other external motivation tactics, but before I write it, I would love to hear from you.

What tactics have you found effective in getting people to engage?

MelissaBarker

Melissa Barker

Social Media Manager, Jive Software

Melissa Barker is the Social Media Manager at Jive Software. She has coauthored three leading-edge textbooks, including Internet Research Illustrated, fifth and sixth editions, both bestsellers, as well as Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach. Melissa was instrumental in creating the first accredited social media marketing certificate in Washington State. She developed and teaches the certificate’s core courses for Spokane Falls Community College, which include social media marketing, search engine marketing, and social media strategic planning courses.

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