#TipTuesday – Never Be Satisfied – Keep Growing

|   Nov 24, 2015

In this final post in my series on building a successful enterprise social network (ESN), I draw on my learning background and goal orientation. So here is tip #12:

Never be satisfied – keep growing.


This is true in a variety of areas for someone who has responsibility for a company’s ESN.

First, let’s consider the area of technology.

No platform is perfect. We’re in better shape in 2015 than several years ago in the capabilities of software and in our understanding of what is possible and wise technologically. Still, community managers and others responsible for an ESN must always be on the lookout for big and little changes in the platform that help the company accomplish its objectives better and that improve the user experience. Work with the platform vendor as needed to suggest changes. Give your users an easy way to suggest changes that you can then vet and pass on to the vendor if you agree that the change would be a helpful improvement.

If you did your homework well when selecting an ESN platform, you should be able to stay with it for a long while to come, but keep pushing for improvements. A vendor who rarely provides updates will not meet an innovative company’s needs for long. If you decide that there is no alternative but to change platforms, do so, but understand that there is great pain that accompanies such a drastic change. Only change platforms if there are overwhelming business reasons for doing so, but don’t stay locked in to a platform and vendor that refuses to evolve. The pain of change can be great, but the pain of staying with a vendor who never changes the platform can be greater and more damaging in the long run.

The user experience is another significant area you should always strive to improve. This is, of course, related to the technology improvements mentioned above, but it isn’t limited to that category. Identify those who have a knack for seeing and using the software from the viewpoint of a new user or another particular audience and take seriously their feedback. Listen to what is said repeatedly over time about negative aspects of the user experience and address those issues. Most workers don’t have the luxury of a lot of extra time on their hands, so be diligent – even aggressive – about championing changes that improve the user experience so that they will enjoy it and want to return. One of the great things about an ESN is that you usually don’t have to go out of your way to solicit opinions or to get volunteers for some user experience initiative. You’ll probably find a large, willing group of volunteers eager to help in response to a simple post on the platform requesting their assistance.

A third area worthy of continuous effort at improvement is that of deeper integration of ESN use – both in its physical presence across various platforms as well as in the day-to-day processes and work flow that guide so much of our daily work. As was suggested in an earlier post in the series, the most successful ESN will not be the one that is only its own separate destination apart from the tools and processes where people normally do their work; it will be the one easily accessed within the tools people use and in the normal workflow of how their work gets done.

Another way in which I am never satisfied in managing our ESN is in thinking of new ways to grow and expand its use and impact each year. Since we launched our ESN (called Buzz) in 2010, I’ve had 2-3 major goals top of mind each year. In the early years, the goals were mostly about growth and adoption, while subsequent years have focused on leader engagement, integration into other applications and work processes, gaining mobile access, increasing member engagement or their sense of community. This year, we (and by “we” I mostly mean by awesome fellow community manager Brenda Smith) have devoted much attention to developing an extensive playbook, releasing a custom mobile app, developing a roadmap for the coming year, and managing/reporting on ESN-related communications in light of the proposed acquisition of our company in 2016. We still have goals related to engagement and all the normal day-to-day work that must get done, but we cannot continuously improve if we allow ourselves to succumb to “the tyranny of the urgent” and never move forward with the long-term important.

Lastly, be sure to grow as an individual along the way. Make use of internal and external resources to continuously expand your knowledge and grow professionally. I cannot imagine a life without continuous learning. I have several go-to resources for learning about ESNs in particular or social media in general. For example, I’m a big fan of Rich Millington and his advice given at Feverbee.com for ways I grow in my understanding of managing communities. I also have memberships in the professional organizations The Community Roundtable and SocialMedia.org. I will be blatantly biased, though, and say that my favorite ESN resource is the weekly Twitter chat I founded – #ESNchat! With a different topic each week, many knowledgeable professionals contributing to the discussion weekly, and archives of that great content going back to September 2013, you will find a wealth of existing info and a tremendous opportunity for networking and continuous learning weekly by taking part in the chat. You can learn more about ESNchat on my blog. Then join us each Thursday afternoon from 2-3pm Eastern time on Twitter by following and using the tag #ESNchat.

We don’t stop learning once we’re out of school or just because we’re no longer pursuing formal degrees or certifications. We continue to learn because we’re built that way as human beings. If we possess that attitude about learning and growing and constantly improving ourselves, I suspect that will translate into the same intention to continuously improve the areas of our work for which we have responsibility – ESNs or otherwise.

Tip #12 is Never be satisfied – keep growing.

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

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