#TipTuesday – Avoid “Big Launch Syndrome”

|   Oct 13, 2015

For this sixth tip in my series on building a successful enterprise social network (ESN), I am deeply indebted to online community management consultant Rich Millington, his excellent resources at FeverBee.com and his book Buzzing Communities. Here’s the tip:

Avoid Big Launch Syndrome.

tip6

What is Big Launch Syndrome? It is the temptation to invest massive amounts of resources and effort into a broadly-publicized and promoted launch for a new community. It is announcing to the largest population possible in as short a time as possible “We’re ready! Everyone come join us!” It may include an enormous investment of development time and resources before the Big Launch to create the presumed perfect, all-encompassing community platform that will be the end-all, perfect place (never mind the fact that few, if any, actual users will have seen or been involved with it up to that point).

Big Launch Syndrome believes that mass marketing is how you grow a community and that a community can and should go from nothing to a busy beehive of activity practically overnight. Big Launch Syndrome sees creating a community as an event rather than an ongoing, gradual process, and that is where it is dead wrong and even deadly for the long-term prospects of the community.

Last year I wrote an article for SocialMediaExplorer.com called “So You’re Thinking About Starting an Online Community: Think Settling the West – Not Filling a Stadium.” In the article, I discuss how geographical communities are built slowly and gradually. This is true whether we’re discussing modern communities or older ones we read stories of from frontier days long ago in America. Those places sprang up because of early settlers – people who took a risk to go someplace new and explore new territory while others remained behind. The early settlers didn’t go to a location, build all the houses, barns, businesses, stables, saloons, churches, schools and more – all that they envisioned they would ever need – and then wire back east one day that it was ready for everyone to come move in on some magical Big Launch Day. Of course not. Early enthusiasts (settlers) explored, staked out some turf, starting living their lives there, made themselves at home, gradually built more permanent structures, and eventually enjoyed a community worthy of the name. Eventually, others heard about it or stumbled upon it and found something of value there. They found a reason to hang around or to visit again and again. More then decided to also stake their claim in that community. That’s how you grow – slow and steady in a way that builds value and something worth having and returning to time and again, both in content and in relationships.

If you think about the city or geographical area you live in today, it was surely built over a long period of time and has an interesting history of key players and milestones that were instrumental in its development. It didn’t just spring up overnight because someone threw a lot of money at it. That slow, deliberate approach is how you need to grow your enterprise social network (or any online community – internal or external). Find the early enthusiasts who understand the potential and are eager to settle in, create value (content), build relationships, and start developing a sense of community between the people present. Day by day invite others to the community, showing them the value of what is already there and what’s in it for them.

For the past year and a half we have invited 100-200 different employees per day to establish accounts on our ESN – part of the reason why we’ve grown from 69% of employees with an account to over 86% during that time. But more important than invitations from the community manager are the invitations and testimonies of coworkers and peers who bring them in on the basis of the benefits they have discovered by being a part of the community.

Take a look at the chart above. It shows the number of active accounts on our company’s ESN (Buzz) since its launch in May, 2010 through today. That is a slow and steady, extremely consistent growth pattern. (The only slight dips are from periodic account clean-up of those no longer with the company prior to that process being automated nightly.) I’ll take such growth anytime over a Big Launch that has people scrambling and confused from some mass marketing effort, only to fizzle as the promotion and meaningful experiences subside.

Find the pockets of business areas and those individuals who catch the vision of what is possible using an enterprise social network at your company. Work with them and help them succeed. Document those successes and publicize them. Reach out daily to a manageable number of new people, inviting them into the community. Encourage your enthusiasts and power users to do the same. By doing so, you are most likely to grow a solid community that steadily builds valuable content and relationships while accomplishing the business’s purposes.

The early adoption numbers may not impress those inclined toward a Big Launch, but that’s OK. Your job is to provide long-term value to the enterprise, not short-term hype and marketing fluff. If you understand how communities grow – both online and geographical communities – apply that knowledge to growing your ESN. Pay attention to tip #6:

Avoid Big Launch Syndrome.

[This post has been modified from the original version first published at jeffrossblog.com.]

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Socialcast by VMware (NYSE: VMW) is a social network for business uniting people, information, and applications with its real-time enterprise activity stream engine. Behind the firewall or in the cloud, Socialcast enables instant collaboration in a secure environment. Socialcast is headquartered in San Francisco, California. www.socialcast.com