I have created many successful software application pilots in my day. But these were more traditional process based applications that didn’t hinge on community adoption and participation. Pilot’s are intended to mitigate risk by basically validating that the process and software supporting that process will serve the needs of a “system actor.” This made sense because the process and software was usually complex and the user was mostly acting on that process-software independently.
This practice is not prudent for social media where the software complexity should be minimal and the primary goal is to get people interacting. Community participants are fickle and unforgiving (especially external communities). You may only get one shot at catalyzing community formulation. Don’t pilot, test, prototype, or experiment on the community. Don’t artificially restrict participation. The law of numbers is a critical factor in building a thriving and productive community. Why would you only go after a small subset of a target audience when mass adoption is a critical success factor? You will handicap success from the start. I have spoken with numerous organizations that failed to gain adoption only to find out that they restricted membership as part of a “pilot.” Others, “half bake” the social media environment functionality because it is a “pilot” and they are basically only experimenting. This is a great recipe for a poor user experience that can not only turn off a potential community participant for that pilot but also significantly impede any other social media efforts targeted at that audience.
Often, enterprises don’t execute on the rigor required for social media success under the moniker of a “pilot.” The most successful implementations I’ve seen don’t “pilot,” they execute on a planned increment. When you go to the community with a social media solution, go for real. So how do you mitigate risk? Mitigate risk with a carefully scoped purpose. Minimize the initial business purpose pursued but pursue that purpose with all the execution discipline it requires. Instead of deploying a social network for all your employees to collaborate more effectively (but only starting with a pilot for the “western region”) build a social media solution for your sales people to network specifically on how to successfully identify and overcome the top three sales objections.
I have spent the past few years researching and publishing on best practices (such as “Don’t Pilot”). But unfortunately I still see social media pilot efforts out there, that ironically, create rather than mitigate failure risk. Here are a few of the key reports (available to clients or for a fee).
- Seven Key Characteristics of a Good Purpose for Social Software
- Toolkit: Planning for Social Software Applications Using a Purpose Road Map
- Ten Primary Design Considerations for Delivering Social Software Solutions: The PLANT SEEDS Framework
- Use a Gartner Governance Model to More Safely Empower Grassroots Social Media Efforts
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