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    Social Training for Social Software

    Socialtext active usage is way, way up–over 300% so far this year. There are many reasons for the growth, but in this post I’ll focus on one specific factor: our training approach.

    Some time ago, I had one of those forehead-smacking “Ah-Hah” moments about the way we were trying to train customers to use Socialtext: Traditional IT training doesn’t work for social software. Social software requires social training.

    When I talk about social training, I’m not talking about charm school, or teaching your collie how to play nice with the local poodles. I’m talking about a unique method of teaching employees to use social software at work.

    In traditional training, you interact with technology. In social training, you interact with other people by means of technology. The technology becomes a medium, like a telephone or a videoconference room, rather than the object of your interaction, like an MRI machine or a Boeing 777.

    Suppose you were trying to train someone who had never seen a telephone before. You could teach them how to dial, how to put someone on hold, how to work the mute button. But until they actually make a call and speak to another human being, they won’t get the point. And that’s exactly what happens when you use traditional training methods for social tools: they learn how to push the buttons, but they don’t get the point.

    Embracing a social approach for Socialtext training caused us to radically rethink the way we introduce new users to the system. In a Socialtext training, you don’t get told all the features of the system. You don’t walk through hypothetical use cases. You don’t get to sit back and watch a trainer walk through a system demo.

    Instead, you interact with your colleagues, in real time, using Socialtext. We cram lots of users on a conference call at the same time. Everyone logs in to the system.  We walk participants through basic functions like creating a profile, tagging themselves, posting Signals, editing workspace pages. We encourage them to ask questions–then answer questions that others have asked. We encourage them to tag not only themselves, but also their colleagues. We noodge everyone to upload a profile photo. We kibbitz, we cajole, we encourage people to step outside their comfort zones.

    The results are amazing. We can jump-start an implementation within a couple weeks, and engage even the most skeptical, change-resistant employees within an organization in a very short time. (Did I mention that active usage is up by more than 300%?)

    Why does social training work? Four simple reasons:

    • It creates a social dynamic from the start. The worst failure a social software tool can make is the sin of “crickets”: a user tries to engage the community and there’s no immediate reply. By getting many users on the system all at the same time, we guarantee that each of those users is experiencing a vibrant, active community at scale.
    • It answers the “why” question. For most business users, the big question in social software isn’t the “how”. The mechanics of social software are simple. Users don’t need a training course to know that they tag their profiles by clicking the “Add Tag” button, or post a Signal by clicking “Post”. However, many users do need help in understanding *why* they would want to tag a profile or post a signal. For those users, the whole thing suddenly makes sense when they see their colleagues tagging and posting in real time, and in response to each other.
    • It scales. The ideal size for a training session is anywhere between 25 and 100 simultaneous participants. They don’t have to be in a room together. In fact, it’s almost better when they’re *not* in a room together. That way the software becomes their exclusive mode of interaction.
    • It’s fun. When these trainings go well, they’re more like cocktail parties than training sessions. People meet new people, discuss interesting topics, and crack jokes all in the course of the hour. Many participants comment that it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a training.

    So whether you’re using Socialtext or some other social software tool…give social training a try. The results will delight you. More important, they’ll delight your users.

    Socialtext introduces Socialtext 5 – welcome to the power, the ease and the flow of the future!

    We here at Socialtext have all been rubbing our hands together eagerly in anticipation of the ST5 release for several months …. and the day has finally arrived!  What, you might be asking yourself, is all the noise about?  This release marks an evolution for Socialtext that has been some time coming, bringing together the combined suggestions of our most inspired customers, genius designs from Tangible UX and the force of nature that is our development team.

    We have taken what has always been the most flexible, elegant Enterprise Social Software platform and elevated it to new heights.  This release sees a complete overhaul of the user interface, introduces a world-class rich text editor and a barrel-load of other features that make Socialtext more accessible, social and successful than ever before.

    We know you’re going to love this release as much as we do, but it’s just the beginning for the awesome work that is coming your way this year. The 5.0 release takes us closer to 100% HTML5, greatly simplifies content organization, incorporates the power of a deep partner module with IntroNetworks’ SocialRadar, and paves the way for mobile applications – we’re cutting a path ahead of us in Social Software with innovative, enterprise class features and a proven adoption methodology that equals an unbeatable combination.  Care to join us?

    Socialtext Chairman, Customer to Speak at Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston

    I’m pleased to announce that Socialtext’s chairman and co-founder, Ross Mayfield, will be a keynote speaker at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston on Wednesday, June 22, at 10:15 a.m. eastern.

    The event will also feature Socialtext customer the American Hospital Association (AHA). Karthik Chakkarapani, the AHA’s IT Director of Technology Solutions & Operations, will be hosting a session about how that organization built a vibrant social intranet on Socialtext. Karthik will speak Thursday morning (June 23).

    Ross is acknowledged across the industry (even by our competitors) as a pioneer in the world of enterprise social networking. He co-founded Socialtext a full three years before Andy McAfee published his famous “Enterprise 2.0” paper for MIT Sloan Management review. He has been an advocate for utilizing social software to improve business processes and the way we work together in a collaborative context.

    Last year, our CEO, Eugene Lee, gave his “Social Layer” keynote at E20. Eugene encouraged the industry to embrace social software as a layer that spans all systems and applications inside a company, rather than silo them off into point applications (like a CRM or ERP system). We have built on that vision this year with our customers via the use of Socialtext Connect.

    I can’t share too much about Ross’s talk yet, but here’s the description we submitted for the Enterprise 2.0 website that is now public. You can watch it live on E20 TV (free with registration).

    The Social Software Evolution, Not Revolution

    Social Software in the Enterprise adapts the best of the web with practices that make it work in the context of an organization. In this keynote, Socialtext Chairman and Co-founder Ross Mayfield will chart this evolution over the last ten years. Core patterns that have emerged help form strategic planning assumptions for Enterprises. But there are also core anti-patterns in social software deployments that fail to account for the context of an organization and their existing culture, processes, and infrastructure. While creative, they lead to tactical destruction. Understanding these evolutionary forces is critical for any strategic implementation seeking change and growth.

    Karthik, who presents Thursday, plans to cover the following:

    Consumer-oriented social media platforms are transforming the way that people communicate and accelerating the spread of information at the speed of light. This session provides an overview of Enterprise Social Collaboration, how to develop an effective strategy and implementation plan, and best practices and adoption strategies, as well as a demo of AHA’s collaboration platform using Socialtext. AHA has built a vibrant social intranet running on Socialtext and its success is largely due to utilizing enterprise social networking to enhance existing business processes and systems.

    Eugene, our CEO, and many Socialtext executives will also be on hand. We look forward to seeing you in Boston!

    Chicago Enterprise Social Networking Event Wrap Up

    Last night, we hosted an enterprise social networking event in Chicago as part of an ongoing series to highlight best practices shared by Socialtext customers.

    It followed our event in New York in April featuring the CIO of NYU Stern (which you can read about here).

    Jack MacKay, VP and CIO of the American Hospital Association, led last night’s discussion at Harry Caray’s in Chicago, and it was a great one. Jack shared how the AHA has built a vibrant social intranet running on Socialtext.

    The reason for AHA’s success: Utilizing enterprise social networking to enhance existing business processes and systems. Using Socialtext Connect, our integration technology, the AHA integrated key HR and document management systems into its social intranet, making it a place where work gets done inside the company. I uploaded the slides to SlideShare so you can get more of the details.

    After the presentation, other Socialtext customers — including FONA International and Hospira — joined in a roundtable discussion about fostering adoption and value from their enterprise social networking efforts.

    We’re looking forward to the next event, and appreciate everyone who came out and contributed to a great discussion.

    Forrester Research: How Socialtext Customer Hayes Knight Built the Social Layer

    Last June, Eugene, our CEO, delivered a keynote talk at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston called “The Social Layer.” The concept was simple: Social software should be a layer of technology that spans an entire organization, pulling together relevant people, content and systems of record in one easy place. It wasn’t about us or any one vendor; it was about moving the industry forward.

    To do our part, however, we introduced Socialtext Connect, an integration technology that lets you surface critical events from enterprise applications (CRM, ERP, etc.) and inject them into the Socialtext platform, where employees from across your organization can collaborate and take action. To get started, we delivered two pre-built integrations to Microsoft SharePoint and Salesforce.com.

    But Rob Koplowitz, the lead Enterprise 2.0 analyst at Forrester Research, didn’t just have to take our word for it: In his latest research note, Rob and his team featured Hayes Knight, a customer of ours in Australia that has used Connect to integrate key systems of record with Socialtext, including a homegrown job management system (built on Microsoft .Net) and CRM data from Salesforce.com. (The Forrester report focuses on the first system, and we have a blog post on the CRM integration, which enables Hayes Knight to serve customers 50 percent faster).

    When I visited Hayes Knight’s headquarters in Sydney back in November, I remember being amazed at how much they’d done with Socialtext Connect and our REST API. At the time, Jack Pedzikiewicz, our champion there, told me his favorite part of our platform was its flexibility, and this report does a great job of highlighting it.

    A quick except:

    Every trend needs a trailblazer, and in the case of establishing an integrated social layer that facilitates core operation processes, Hayes Knight is at the forefront. A group of companies offering accounting, business strategy, and complex tax services, Hayes Knight makes its living from the production and distribution of high-end knowledge. And it does so in Australia, one of the strictest compliance environments in the world.

    Like most organizations, Hayes Knight has legacy systems in place to handle key business functions. Yet most systems were largely transactional in nature, and Hayes Knight’s work product was anything but transactional. Jack Pedzikiewicz took on the task of turning the culture to one of knowledge capture, sharing, and collective decision-making while maintaining the context provided by the company’s core business systems.

    Pedzikiewicz targeted several of Hayes Knight’s core business processes for the initiative. Bridging the structured business systems and the new enterprise social capabilities through rich and deep integration was the key technical capability. After exploring the capabilities of multiple core business systems, his primary criteria for product assessment focused on the APIs provided to get information in and out of the system. He landed on Socialtext as the best platform to achieve his goals.

    Meanwhile, at Socialtext we’ve remained focused on moving our part of the Social Layer story forward (see an article today in CMSWire). We’ve not only been developing our own features, but we’ve been working with customers in our SocialDev community to help them create the integration they require to run their businesses. The best part of the community is that customers are sharing code and ideas among themselves, without us even having to be involved.

    I know I speak on behalf of the entire Socialtext team in saying that we’re thrilled Jack and his team got the recognition they deserved in this important research note. And we’re looking forward to more social layer stories going forward.

    At New York Event, Customers Share How They Leverage Social Software to Improve Business Performance

    In New York on Thursday, we hosted the first of a Socialtext event series that will be taking place all over the country, bringing together Socialtext customers and IT professionals who want to hear the benefits, challenges and experiences of implementing social software.

    Held at the Silverleaf Tavern in midtown Manhattan, our main speaker was Anand Padmanabhan, CIO of NYU Stern. Anand and his team has deployed social software to nearly 10,000 faculty, students, and staff at NYU Stern, fundamentally transforming communication between those constituencies.

    Anand discussed how NYU Stern approached social software adoption: Combine traditional, informational portal technologies with the easy, social tools inside Socialtext. The result: A vibrant social intranet where work gets done at NYU Stern.

    Michael Idinopulos, our vice president of customer success, also spoke during the event. Michael has coined a phrase that has been very popular in both our customer base and industry followers: Social software in the flow of work. His overall point: If social software exists outside of key business processes and the systems a company has in place, it will be impossible for a company to realize its value. Organizations like NYU Stern, he emphasized, identified key areas and pain points that social software could address, which is why they’ve enjoyed great adoption and value.

    We appreciated everyone who attended the New York event and the great conversations that took place. The Socialtext team is looking forward to our next one in Chicago.

    InformationWeek: Socialtext Named Number One Social Software Vendor

    InformationWeek released its Enterprise 2.0 Vendor Evaluation Survey, an assessment of enterprise technology vendors that deliver social applications inside the enterprise. Not only did the survey find staggering adoption of social software across organizations, Socialtext ranked number one in overall performance, beating out competition new and old.

    Alex Wolfe, the editor in chief of InformationWeek.com, authored a summary of the report, and put the findings into context:

    “We use two sets of criteria to rank vendors. The first set rates the relative importance of 12 standard benchmarks used for all product sets. The other measures vendors against criteria tailored to specific features and capabilities customers seek in the product category–for Enterprise 2.0 applications, these include the ability to integrate with internal applications, quality of the user interface, and completeness of the feature set. Notably, respondents to this survey favored smaller players like Socialtext even when we delved into very specific Enterprise 2.0 features”

    Our friends in the Enterprise 2.0 echo chamber will debate the methodology, but we like the premise of it: Rather than interviewing the vendors, this report is based on the feedback from more than 600 IT professionals. While Socialtext participates in many analyst assessments of the market, those reports tend to be much more subjective, favoring larger and less innovative vendors that check off features rather than adding real business value. We believe social software is successful when it exists firmly in the flow of work — enhancing, rather than ignoring, the business processes a company has in place.

    Our strong performance in this report reflects what’s been a universal goal for Socialtext the past few years: Let’s deliver the simple, social tools that people want to get their job done, while giving IT the security, scalability and flexibility they require — all with the low total cost of ownership that comes with Software as a Service.

    During our all-company meetings, Eugene, our CEO, always says the best innovations come from customers (and the vendors who are smart enough to listen to them). For us, this customer-focused approach is helping us deliver social software that enables people to perform their best work with colleagues. This survey is a nice reminder that we’re having some great success.

    Press & Analyst Happy Hour in San Francisco Last Night

    Last night, outside the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco at the Thirsty Bear on Howard Street, some of the Socialtext brass met with our friends in the blogger, media and analyst community as part of an ongoing set of happy hours. Eugene, our CEO, reluctantly let me pick out the appetizers, though I failed to take into account the fact we had some vegetarians in our midst (sorry again). Ross, our chairman and co-founder, and Britta, our new chief marketing officer, were also on hand.

    For me, I enjoyed talking with Deloitte’s Chris Heuer about how we define the value of social software inside companies, and the semantics of explaining it to people who aren’t ardent industry followers (such as that pesky “Enterprise 2.0 versus social business” argument). We tend to emphasize the former — not because E20 is a perfect term either, but because we find “social business” has the wrong ring to it when you talk to key champions at companies.

    We’re looking forward to the next one…


    Free KMWorld Webinar Tuesday: Improve Business Performance with Social Software

    At Socialtext, we believe that social software implementations are successful when they complement and enhance key business processes a company already has in place. By bringing people to the forefront, social software brings context and awareness to the valuable knowledge and content being shared throughout the enterprise.

    Those will be among the topics covered on Tuesday’s KMWorld Webinar at 2 p.m. Eastern: “Social Tools For Business: Engage, Optimize, Collaborate.” (Click that link to register for free). My colleague, Alan Lepofsky, will discuss how Socialtext customers are utilizing social software to improve business performance and key performance indicators (He will name and cite specific case studies). He’ll also show how one company has deployed an enterprise-wide intranet to leverage organizational knowledge and improve context behind that knowledge.

    The webinar will be moderated by Andy Moore, KMWorld’s publisher, and will also feature content management speakers. It promises to be an interesting mix of perspectives, and we hope to see as many of you there as possible. There will be Q&A session at the end, when you can field questions to Alan and the other speakers.

    A little background on Alan:

    Alan has deep roots in the enterprise collaboration world, having worked at IBM for 14 years before he came to Socialtext in 2008. He works very actively with our customers and product teams, and has been a leader in our Socialtext Connect product offering — which allows people to integrate traditional enterprise systems with our social software platform.

    We hope to see you Tuesday!

    Socialtext to Host Government 2.0 Event in Australia

    During the past year, more government organizations have harnessed social software to make it easier for employees to share knowledge, expertise and ideas across organizational silos. In doing so, government organizations can improve the flexibility of their business processes, cultivate new ideas, and serve constituents more efficiently. In September, Socialtext was added to the GSA schedule, and we featured some of our government customers, including the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) .

    But this “Government 2.0″ phenomenon hasn’t been just limited to the United States. In Australia, for example, we’ve been seeing a lot of traction for social software inside government agencies. On December 2, in Melbourne, we’ll be hosting a special event for government agencies in Australia looking to understand the benefits of social software. The event will feature a Socialtext customer, The Department of the Premier and Cabinet in South Australia, who will share their experiences using social software with peers in attendance. Their talk will be followed by a discussion and networking period.

    We want to create an intimate setting for this event, where attendees can have candid discussions about their current or future use of social software. So please register as soon as you can as space will be limited.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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