Pacing your Social Business Adoption-Early Adopter Growth Plan


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One of the keys to getting your social business project to hold and for the people using it to find value from it is by making it relevant to the work everyone does on a daily basis. It’s important to set strategic objectives for your social transformation – ones that demonstrate clear and tangible business improvement. It’s also important to address the more mundane business processes that your staff perform every day. So before going after that big strategic goal, think about some of the pain points people need to deal with every day and address them.

One of the best groups for doing this is a team of early adopters. I have often used an inverted triangle of user adoption to show where you should start and how to scale your deployment. You’ll see that after your champions, your Early Adopters are critical to the success of your project.


Let’s stop for a minute and look at my proposed make up of people up to and including the Early Adopters:

People Diagram

Your Team

Your Team should be fairly obvious. It might just be you, or it might be a collection of people who are working with you to drive the project forward. It might include technical engineers, business consultants, trainers, project managers and any number of trainers or content producers. However many people it includes and whatever job roles they fulfil the point here is that these people should be the ninja-warriors of social. They should be the paragons of virtue when it comes to working socially and co-operatively. It should go without saying that you should be using the collaboration platform to plan, to communicate and to develop your project. Unless your team practice what you preach you will not be authentic and your users will sense that their effort may not be worth their while.


Your champions will likely be formed of a small group of people who are particularly adept at collaboration. Fundamentally they should not be part of your team. They should be representative of the user population but need to be people who “get it” and “want it”. They need to be enthusiastic users and people who are pleased to help. Although not exclusively by any means I have often found people who work in marketing or sales good candidates as they are used to being enthusiastic and presenting their work to others.

Early Adopters

The Early Adopters group plays an essential role in your adoption strategy. Remember that you have built a team around you who will support your efforts. You also have a small “army” of Champions who are there to help you win over users and be model citizens. The Early Adopters group is a larger and more diverse collection of people. They should be picked from those who would be considered to be overall positive about working in new ways right through to those that you would think would, in general, be reticent to get involved. This Spectrum of Sentiment gives you an ideal base of people because:

  1. They are a reasonable cross-section of the people in the organisation who need to use the system;
  2. They are a credible collection of people which the net detractors would consider would give real feedback about the system.

You and your team need to decide, possibly with the executive sponsors and the champions, who is asked to join the Early Adopters group and how many. Initially the group should be limited to around twice or three times the size of the champions group, in my experience:


You might want to skew the membership of the group towards the positive if you are concerned about the reputation of the project or where other such projects have in the past been difficult. That said, you need to have negative views and detractors in your mix to be sure that you are actually addressing problems. Don’t go for the extremely negative types. They have a lot to lose by being part of the project – they’ll lose face and will be hard work all the way. Better that their less-negative colleagues do the work of introducing them to the system in a quiet way down the line than involving them too early.

Iterative Adoption

So how do you actually go about getting people using the system? How do you get the ball rolling? Well, I would strongly encourage you to consider an Iterative approach to adoption. There are many fine articles on iteration in the computer software development world, indeed IBM’s Rational Unified Process is one of the best examples of a complete discipline based on iteration. Put simply, an iterative adoption process runs through complete adoption cycles with either ever-growing groups of users, or through different areas of the business.

The advantage of iterative adoption is that you get better and better at bringing people on board with each iteration. You start with getting your own team going, then get the Champions on board then the Early Adopters. You go through a complete cycle of introduction, demonstration, construction, implementation and supporting for these users. The key, however, for your project, is that with each iteration your team grows to include the newly-adopted users. Thus, when you make it as far as your Executives or into a Department, your team of advocates and supporters includes both Champions and Early Adopters.

For each iteration I recommend you go through the following general steps:

  1. Explaining the vision of what you are setting out to do;
  2. Understanding where your users are coming from – their background, perceptions and attitudes to the project;
  3. Listening and documenting the issues around collaboration and communication the users perceive. Focus on every day issues like reducing the volume of email; sharing documents centrally, managing projects, standardising documentation, finding people;
  4. Discuss and design how you would address these problems using the social tool;
  5. Use your team’s experience and brainstorm solutions with the group;
  6. Demonstrate how to implement the solutions;
  7. Mentor and support the group to get going using the solution to solve their problem;
  8. Get feedback from them about what’s working and what’s not, adjust your approach to suit.
  9. Repeat 7 and 8 until you feel, and you get feedback from the group, that they are self-sustaining.
  10. Ask for their commitment to extend this approach to the next group up the inverted pyramid.

As you move up the pyramid you will need to go about your evangelism, publicity and up skilling in different ways. There will be different demographics, locations, and many other factors to consider for the different groups. If you are aware that this will be the case you can at least prepare for it.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought on how to energise a group of Early Adopters to get going with social collaboration. Stay tuned for the next post which will be on building communities & content.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Hamilton
I believe social business is a new way for organizations of all sizes to form stronger working relationships within themselves and with their customers and partners. By demonstrating how any organization can become more open, responsible, compassionate and flexible I can show that staff and customer satisfaction increases, morale improves and better business results come.


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