Over dinner a friend was sharing details of a new startup his acquaintances were launching. As he told me more about the end users and their experience it dawned on me that the success of this startup would ironically have very little to do with the experience of these end users. A very small group of users - perhaps just 10 - would hold the key to engaging thousands of other users on the site. These 10 users would be infrequent, but would umtimately drive the behavior of the entire group.
Would these 10 users be providing a unique experience that thousands would be interested in? No
Did these 10 users have any real power over the thousands? No
So - why were these 10 users so critical to the success of the thousands of others getting engaged? What could we learn from these 10 users that might apply to Enterprise 2.0 deployments that are also powered by a community of users?
Our examiniation will underscore the importance of constantly examining adoption from every angle and consituent invovled.
The Hidden Influencer's Experience
Anytime that we contemplate methods to increase Enterprise 2.0 adoption we focus on the bulk of end users and meeting their needs. The sceneario above epitomizes the "tail wagging the dog" - a small pocket of users controlling the adoption of the site.
Listening to my friend's story I realized that by providing an outstanding experience for the group of 10 users - beyond that of any competing tool - adoption would come swiftly to the site. Everyone else attempting to provide a solution in this industry was so concerned about the thousands of users, nobody ever stopped to contemplate the infrequent, but significant users that would drive people to the site.
Many organizations that I have worked with attempt to deploy Enterprise 2.0 solutions to large audiences and afterward have been suprised to see slower growth than anticipated and sometimes dissapointed in the return on their ivestment. Conversly, many successful deployments has been tightly focused around a prodblem for a related group of users - one of my most memorable being for a group of just five users.
Hidden Influencers in the Enterprise
The 10 users that hold the key to enabling the success of the startup draw the thousands of users are mandating that transactions with their organization are done via the online community. They 10 users do not have any organizational power over the thousands or a unique product or service offering, but have mandated the way in which people will interact with them. Why did they do this? Because the 10 users are being offered a far superior experience from this startup.
Turning our attentions to the enterprise - we have a wealth of leverage that the above organization does not - namely responsibilities and heirarchies that have direct impact on a person's level of success. From this we can look at management level individuals
What are their real concerns?
What does their management / organizations require of them?
What challenges do they have to achieving this work today?
In a similar fashion it is possible to isolate key users within an enterprise and due to a great experience on a community platform, have them mandate how members will interact with them. For the group of 5 that I mentioned earlier, they could have not been more pleased and their experience influenced and drove other members to do the same within their respects arms of the organization. It was E2.0 from the top day with members that were not frequently engaged, but leaders that validated E2.0 as their prefered channel for business.
In an enterprise it is ideal to find small pockets of influential users, although perhaps infrequent, that can drive the behaviors of others to exchange and manage information with them using E2.0 technologies. These "hidden" influencers drive a return on the platform investment, as well as embody the spirit of effective E2.0 usage.