Adopting social media for social collaboration in workplaces-Best practices

adopting social media

Within a workplace context, the adopting social media and its usage is often termed as ‘Enterprise social networking’ or the ‘Corporate social network’.  In the recent years, a lot has been written about the benefits of using social media but little importance has been given to the science and art of its implementation and adoption within organizations.

Firstly, it is a science because the implementation goes through a set of methodical procedures starting from organizational readiness to the final measures of success.  The methods are the same as implementing any other enterprise systems in workplaces.

Secondly, it is an art because, convincing the employees and the wider organization to adopt  corporate social network with the realm of fast and dynamically changing social and political landscape is nevertheless an art form.

Social media benefits drive implementation approaches

The biggest benefit of them of all, providing the context to the information, which often questions ‘who, why and what’ of information, the challenges and pitfalls is often missing in traditional knowledge management and knowledge sharing.  This context to information, which is immediately applicable at work, is mostly tacit and hard to get.  Social media in workplaces provide the context to that information.

Another important benefit, from using social media in workplaces, is the subtle art of building social capital among project teams, the unspoken bonds of social collaboration to get things done.

To realize all these benefits by adopting social media in workplace requires a different implementation approach and which is more of bottoms up than top-down and more artsy than science.

Implementing and adopting social media in workplaces is no easy task.  Here are some best practices drawn from excellent organizations who have been front-runners in implementing social media and have realized the success adopting social media in their organizations.

The three approaches to adopting social media in workplaces

The three approaches that we are going to discuss today are:

1. All hands together

2. Phased approach

3. Bottoms up approach.

Among these three approaches, we will see why the bottoms approach is the most recommended way for implementing and adopting social media in workplaces.

1.All hands together

This approach takes the initiative from the top management.  The top management usually sets the direction, and everybody in the organization follows through.  It is quite an ambitious approach and there are inherent challenges within it.  It requires a great deal of commitment from all the stakeholders and is usually the case where all the stakeholders have unanimously voted for it.  The approach usually works when there is a homogenous population and everybody is eager to implement the new solution to solve their problems.  Works best in a young startup organization. Sometimes even for corporate turn-around strategies in project based and consulting service organizations, social media implementation is done and this approach works best in those scenarios.

2. Phased approach

In a phased approach, implementation is done in a series of phases over a period.  It is good to choose a business unit or a function, which shows the maximum resistance for adoption for conducting the pilot project.  That way the implementation teams create a lot of learning opportunities through this exercise.  The lessons learned are applied to other functions as they begin rolling out to the other business units.  Conducting the pilot phase is the first phase of the implementation.  The approach follows a project management plan.

The pilot phase provides an opportunity for registering the do’s and don’ts; these are implemented in the next subsequent phases of the implementation plan.  It follows the top-down approach model.  A sponsorship committee or a steering committee is set up.  The sponsorship committee has a senior representative from the top management, who can oversee the budget and support the implementation efforts of the execution team.  The execution team usually has project managers, who represent the business units and sometimes members from the external consulting organizations.

Though, it is one of the safe methods for implementing social media,   getting the love and acceptance of the employees in the middle and lower rung organization might be difficult.  Participation and acceptance of the social media tool by all the employees in the long run, is crucial for the successful adoption of social media in the workplace.

3.Bottoms up approach

In the bottoms up approach, everyone is involved and is easily one of the most recommended ways for implementing social media in organizations. The approach takes the form of a meandering story where it flows from one employee group to another, evolving and self-organizing as it touches each business unit, realizing its benefits.

Social media usage in the workplace usually starts within a small group of employees on an ad-hoc basis.  This small group of employees forms the center point from where the implementation and adoption of social media bubbles up to the rest of the organization.  Employees within this small group interact and share information and knowledge among themselves over the corporate intranet space.  They have some success stories and realize the benefits.

Word spreads to the other employee groups within the business unit and they volunteer and willingly join the new social media group.  In addition, there is subtle social capital, which builds among employee groups influencing each other productively.  More success stories follow and other business units volunteer to join.  Critical mass builds up.  Employees are happy and so is the management.  Word spreads to the top management of the company. Top management sets up special steering committee to oversee the implementation of social media to the rest of the organization and realize the intended benefits.  Everyone is happy at the end.


In all the three approaches, there are obstacles and challenges. Overcoming these challenges forms the key for successfully implementing and adopting  social media in workplaces. There are pointers and lessons that HR professionals and project managers can learn as they to begin to implement and initiate  adopting social media in workplaces.


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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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