Measuring the Value of Social Tech #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description: When it comes to enterprise social, it’s all about the business case. Whether your initiative is just getting started or relatively mature, sustained adoption and ongoing support depend on demonstrating clear business value. This session showcases an approach and practical examples you can use to model your business case and ensure that your investment in enterprise social creates an open, agile, and networked organization. Take away ideas you can apply immediately in any social technology platform.

Speaker: Euan Semple, Director, Euan Semple Ltd

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2015 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Slide Deck
  • Numbers.  How do you establish the value or ROI of social tools? The numbers may be interesting, but they do not always tell the full story. Unfortunately, numbers  are relatively easy to gather and are, therefore, sometimes all organizations track.
  • Monitoring. The better approach is to actually get into the social activity streams yourself and then monitor them. What’s happening? What patterns emerge? What does this tell you about the impact of the social tools? Euan actually subscribed to every community/activity stream in his enterprise social network (ESN). Over time he became more proficient and efficient at following the conversations. This helped him understand what was really going on in a way the numbers simply could not reveal.
  • What to report?  At the beginning, don’t set up the wrong expectations based on the numbers you offer to report. Remember that you are interpreting and communicating the data to people who do not always understand the tools, the context, and the nature of the activity that happens on the social platform. Even if you grasp the data, you won’t really be able to do anything with it unless you are truly a part of that activity.
  • “If you can measure it, it is probably not worth managing.”  Too often people/organizations get obsessed with their numbers and then allow those numbers to distort their behavior:
    • “Everyone from BuzzFeed to the Washington Post seems to be chasing after viral content because of the traffic it brings — but all this does is reinforce how doomed the page-view model really is.”
  • What should you monitor?  Treat your ESN as an ecology rather than a mechanical system. As you monitor activity, track where the energy is. Then deploy tools that help you follow and amplify that energy. What should you look for?
    • Who is using the ESN?
    • What are they doing with it?
    • Where are they using it from?
    • How often are they using it?
    • What are the reactions?
  • Thanks. The most important metric is the extent to which the system is actually helping people. To show this, Euan did a monthly search for the word “thanks.” Next he dug deeper to identify what help was provided and how that help made a difference. Then he told stories that explained the impact. A member of the audience reported that they have introduced simple hashtagging so contributors can tag success stories as #forthewin. Then the KM group can track that hashtag to collect the success stories.
  • How to report the ESN activities? While there may be pressure to report numbers, try to keep the focus on stories that matter in the context of the person enquiring about value.
  • The biggest value of an ESN? Often the biggest value of an ESN to an organization is that is shows what actually is happening inside the organization. Admittedly, sometimes uncovering this pushes the organization to a dark place. However, it is necessary if we want to manage and improve the organization’s performance.
  • Senior Sponsorship? Euan was lucky that he had sufficient network clout to move (several times) to a new sponsor who could provide the support necessary for the ESN initiative. His advice is to find a new boss and move if you need something your current boss cannot provide.
  • Reverse ROI. Euan pushes back on ROI inquiries. In his view, the social business activity is happening, so we should go with the flow rather than using ROI inquiries as a means of stopping the activity. He asks the inquirer to provide the cost of ignoring or disallowing ESN activity.
  • Fix Problems. Makes things concrete, not abstract. Find ways to fix problems for real people.
  • Work Horizontally. If you cannot go upwards, go horizontally. If you cannot get support from above, pull in people at your own level across the organization who can become involved, become persuaded, and then become part of the success story of the ESN.
  • Use the tools to manage and report on the tools. Try working out loud to surface things that may be challenges in the network. If you see tension or problems, work out loud by asking the network what is going on and what to do about it.
  • Good networks self-heal. It’s important to revert back to the network any issues, queries or concerns. Then let the network address it. This is important for its health and growth.
  • Get used to being misunderstood and under-appreciated.