Enterprise Social Networks - Measuring and Evaluating Impact
There has been a huge growth in the implementation of Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs). The rate of implementation and adoption is growing. There are good, solid reasons. ESNs provide a platform and tool for collaboration, communication, knowledge management, and more. There are questions though about verifying those results and their magnitude. How do you measure the real impact? How do you know you are getting results?
Understanding what is happening within your ESN starts with measurement. At the most basic level, user identification and authentication will tell you who is logging on and for how long. It will not tell you what they are doing or how they are benefiting or contributing. It will definitely provide a measure of organizational awareness or recognition of the tool.
Looking at individual participation requires measures that are more specific. How may posts have they “liked” or “favorited”? How many communities or groups do members belong to? How many posts have they generated? How many posts have they commented on or replied to? In aggregate, across all organizational participants, the numbers will provide a rough measure of engagement.
All of these individual measures should be analyzed for demographics. How are they distributed across job titles or functions? Are they coming from specific work groups or job functions, lines of business, divisions, or regions? This data will help you formulate strategies for increasing participation and engagement where it may be lacking.
You also have to look at the communities or groups. What is their focus? Is it social or business related? How many members are there in each group? What is the growth rate for each group? How many posts are made per period in each group? Is that number growing, flat, or declining? How many comments or replies are added during the same period? What is the average number of comments or replies per post per period? What is the volume of other engagement activities such as “liking” or “favoriting”?
Search is another area you should investigate. What are members searching for? What can you tell from the results they are getting? Are they searching efficiently such as with groups? Search activity will help you ascertain if members consider the ESN to be a viable resource for answers.
All of these demographics are going to give you a very good picture of activity and engagement. However, one of the big goals of an ESN is to develop collaboration, communication, and cross-pollination. To evaluate this you need to do some analysis. Consider another individual member measurement, connections. How many other members does the average member follow? Of the total number of members, how many of them are being followed? These are connections. However, the more important question is where are those followers physically, and organizationally? Are they following the member in the next cube or down the hall, or is it someone with a similar job in another division? Are they following someone in a similar job function but working in another operational or production unit? These types of connections are the ones that will tell you if the ESN is reaching across traditional boundaries to foster discussions and collaboration. Knowing how connections are forming through engagement provides a deeper understanding of how your organization is increasing its internal network and collaboration.
At a certain point, evaluation has to come from subjective inputs. Surveys are useful. Focus groups can also provide great insight and valuable suggestions. Surveying the bottom twenty percent of members with no or little engagement can help identify if there are roadblocks in understanding, perceptions of lack of value, or if the members just do not have time or do not think it is important. An interesting side analysis of this group is a demographic breakdown of their job functions and titles. That can often be very insightful.
What you learn from measurement and evaluation can help you make much better decisions about where to focus your efforts. Is the real value coming from the top 25% of members? Is there huge untapped potential in the bottom rung of members? Do you see value in specific groups or types of groups that should be encouraged?
There are a number of ways to gauge the results of your ESN. Measuring return on investment is much more difficult. The right mix of results metrics though can at least provide proof or strong evidence of business value.