Hypothesizing about Social Objects

The reason why we speak to each other and form social networks is to discuss, collaborate on, and share Social objects.

Social objects are important in designing social networks and interfaces.  Hutch Carpenter proposed measuring the actions taken on social objects, or ideas, as a foundation for social analytics.

I would like to take these proposals one step further.  Social objects are the foundation for successful Enterprise 2.0 adoption strategies. Successful adoption strategies will include three steps in the planning process:

  1. Conducting upfront research to discover social objects
  2. Creating use cases and designing the social platform around social objects
  3. Testing, measuring, and analyzing success based on the actions taken on the social objects

1. Ask the employees

The first step should always be to stop and listen to employees.  Conduct ethnographic-style interviews to understand what employees do and how they do.  This has been blogged about before, but it’s worth repeating.  The interviews will yield golden nuggets about what employee collaborate on, how they do it, what the pain points are, and the opportunities for improvement.  What employees discuss and collaborate on are the social objects.

2.  Use Cases

Social Networks form around Social Objects, not the other way around. If true, then to succeed – for employees to find value with and use the social platform – we have to design the social platform and communities around the social objects.  If we do not design for relevance, then the employees will not use the platform.  If the platform is not designed around the focus of their jobs – the social objects they discuss, collaborate and work on together – then they will not use it.

For example, an LL Bean catalog, or any other marketing campaign or promotion, is a social object.  Multiple teams spend months creating, designing, mailing, and measuring the Christmas catalog distributed through the mail.  For these employees, that catalog, and every component involved, are social objects.  Perhaps activity streams and wikis are the relevant social features employees require to discuss and collaborate on catalogs and other marketing promotions, as a community.

3. Hypothesis Testing

Whether activity streams and wikis are the social features employees need to collaborate on marketing promotions is a hypothesis.  We are hypothesizing that the social platform will improve how employees collaborate on or share information about creating and executing marketing promotions.  Verifying whether this happens is a first step in understanding whether the adoption strategy is working as planned.  If the team predicts that field and non-field employees will use discussion forums to collaborate on an in-store promotion, then the predicted behavior should be observed in the community.

Why go to all this trouble?

Hypothesizing about what employees will collaborate on, and what social features they need,  is a great way to focus our efforts and resources on what to design, measure, and analyze.  Once we know what’s going on, then we can make the necessary changes to the strategy and continuing observing and measuring what happens.

Social objects and hypothesis testing provide a framework to test, analyze, and optimize adoption strategies and investments. Driving adoption is the first step in the chain of events that leads to improvements in productivity and revenue.

One response to “Hypothesizing about Social Objects

  1. Hallo
    Toller Blog, aber leider sehe ich nur die hälfte.Ist Euch das bekannt?
    Liegt das an meinem Safari?

    Alles Gute aus Frankfurt

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