If you’re considering migrating to an enterprise social network but are concerned with how your employees will respond to one more application to learn, good news! Building an online community is easy if you know where to start. With a few of our tried and true methods, you’ll be well on your way to a new social workplace, turning your employees into cheering fans and wondering how you ever survived without it.

1. Get Everyone on the Same Page

With any new application or technology, it’s always important to start with training. A good way to get everyone on board is with “official launch” training sessions, which explain how to use the application features and also give them an opportunity to get comfortable. If you can, make some video demos available as well as cheat sheets, which outline “quick tips” on using specific features.

Another way to spread the word is by recruiting internal champions to promote employee adoption. Most likely you already have some social gurus in your midst, why not convert them into champions? These employees can reach out to others, get everyone engaged, and quickly up-to-speed.

For example, I have a customer who used their social savvy IT admins to be the point of contact for user questions . This was a great strategy, as the IT admins were already familiar with fielding questions and could help users to overcome obstacles quickly. New application adoption can be easy if you give your team access to helpful resources, and with the right tools they won’t be able to use ”I don’t know how…” as an excuse to not use the new platform.

2. Start with a Small Group

Many of my customers purposefully begin working with just a single department or team. This makes it easy for the group to learn the new application through routine activities like posting questions, sharing files, and assigning tasks. Over time, the group can bring in colleagues or teams from other departments to work with them.

For example, if you launch with just your marketing team, your enterprise social network could grow organically connecting marketing to the other teams they frequently work with, likes sales and product management. The benefit of launching with a small group, is you create ambassadors for your company’s social network. These employees can quickly get other departments on board, and help your social workplace reach a critical mass of users.

3. Make It Fun and Social

One of the most engaging ways to capture employee enthusiasm is to reward those who help your social network grow. Some great ideas we’ve seen are prizes to the first 10 employees who complete their users profiles; gift cards to teams that rack up the most comments in a week; or free lunch to the team with the most social tags. You could also do weekly contests on social productivity milestones, or give a prize to the employee with the most creative “About” bio or the best “1st grader” profile picture.

Fun contests grow adoption quickly and they ease employees into their new social workplace with teamwork and camaraderie. The more creative you get, the more they’ll engage. Also, encourage employees to socialize around non-work related activities. A great way to promote casual participation is to get everyone involved in planning a company office party. It’s important to let them know that the company social network is more for just work, it’s the place where they can connect and converse openly.

4. Set Easy to Follow Guidelines

Because enterprise social networks are new to organisations, you should consider establishing company-wide best practices for using the new platform. Here is an example of a few policies one of my customers used to migrate users to the social network and eliminate email:

  • Messages with more than 2 recipients had to be sent through the social platform
  • Project managers could only answer messages posted to the community
  • Employee’s day-to-day interactions should occur on the social network (or in person)

5. In the End, It’s a Natural Transition

Although at first it may seem like a hard habit to break, with a few simple steps, you can overcome your dependence on email as a primary means of company-wide communication. By educating, encouraging, rewarding, and guiding your employees, you will soon be on your way to stronger employee collaboration and embracing all the benefits an enterprise social network has to offer.

Have your employees become less dependent on email? Please share your tips with me below. I’d like to hear from you!