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6 Strategies to Boost SharePoint Social Usage

25 Sep 2013

SharePoint Social LikeCan you imagine a business launching a product with no promotion? No prizes for guessing how that turns out. The same goes for turning on SharePoint’s social tools and hoping people will stumble across them. It’s simply not going to work. 

SharePoint’s social tools needs someone to manage, nurture and facilitate usage in order for it to be successful. If you are the lucky person in your organisation that’s been appointed as custodian of SharePoint social, it can be a daunting task. 

Here to help is Richard Harbridge, Microsoft expert and Share Conference speaker. Read on for his top 6 tips to make your SharePoint social project a success.

1. Start Small

Having a large amount of activity and people using social technology doesn’t necessarily mean you have meaningful adoption. In other words your top social conversations shouldn’t be things like: “Who’s the best musician of all time?” and instead should be about business topics and business challenges. 

One idea is starting with a simple request form for users who want to join or create a social community to identify their business need. This can have a significant positive impact on how they perceive the use of SharePoint social and what kind of information is created initially. This isn’t valid for every social scenario, but starting with the right sized group of people that you can encourage to foster the right social behaviour can significantly improve meaningful adoption in the long term.

An exception to this is when you have social features like user profiles where you need a significant chunk of the organisation participating for it to be successful. Even in this situation it is important to identify things like ‘best of’ user profiles to act as examples for the rest of the organisation. 

2. Nurture Your Champions

This may seem like the most obvious tip for an organisation rolling out social capabilities but champions are key. Ensure you are selecting the right champions and where needed even consider securing funding for strategic champions that will lead social projects and initiatives within the organisation.

SharePoint has various ways to badge or highlight supportive participation. You should be tracking and reviewing this information to find new potential champions and providing additional ways to give them added visibility or praise. Consider adding a ‘SharePoint champion’ user profile property to the profile pages of your champions or providing visible rewards. If you’re using an integrated Yammer implementation keep in mind that the praise features can be also leveraged in a similar way.  

3. Provide Guidance

One of the biggest challenges with social is the inevitable question of “where should I put this” or “where should this conversation happen?” If we ignore the myriad ways we can communicate in an integrated Yammer scenario, we are still left with seven options for where we can have a conversation: instant messaging, email, team or private discussion, site newsfeed, public discussion, public newsfeed, and via a note. Each one has its own pros and cons and understanding the options can be the most powerful training you can deliver to your champions and users.

Keep in mind that as your champions train and become more capable they may require additional support (since in most models they provide support to many other users). Authors note: If you are interested in learning more about this challenge take a look at Susan Hanley’s article on the subject.

4. Seed Communities 

Starting with the right people is a good first step in implementing SharePoint’s social tools, but in many situations it’s important to give your social communities a leg up and help them get started. For example, if you are looking to implement a social Q&A feature consider taking many of the FAQs you already have and using these as a starting point. 

If you have been successful with search be sure to use analytics to identify frequently accessed content and create social conversations, tags, and references in appropriate discussions to this popular content. 

5. Don’t Neglect Usability

While SharePoint’s out-of-the-box social capabilities are very user-friendly, the addition of embedded guidance, optimized search pages, and intelligent branding and styling can go a long way in making the social experiences in SharePoint more inviting and easier to use.

Integrating SharePoint’s social tools with workflows and business processes can ensure these tools are included in activities that are already part of the workday. As an example, the user profiles of SharePoint can be integrated your Human Resources systems where certain key employee data is maintained. You need to determine what privacy level should be applied to which fields, and which fields will allow for employee self-management (because SharePoint can update Active Directory, for example).

6. Get Creative!

If you know your challenge is to get people to try SharePoint’s social features for the first time, consider hosting a ’30 days of SharePoint’ or ’30 days of Yammer’ campaign to encourage this. Having trouble getting them to use people search? Hold a scavenger hunt or create ‘friends of’ or fake profiles for celebrities. If you’re having trouble getting your creative juices flowing, here are 27 user adoption ideas to get you started.  

My final tip: whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Every organisation is different so don’t be afraid to try a few different strategies to see what’s going to work for yours.


Richard Harbridge Share ConferenceRichard Harbridge is an internationally recognised expert in Microsoft SharePoint and is a technology and business evangelist with deep expertise in information architecture, enterprise content management, and technology strategy. If you found this blog useful, you’ll love his eBook “Win Executive Support for SharePoint Social Tools”. And it’s free! Download it now.

Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net and Sira Anamwong

Topics: Social