Despite the best communications campaign, leadership endorsements, strategic alignment and evidence of value, many people still don’t join or collaborate on enterprise social networks.

Exactly why can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to measure. If they’re not responding to invites, they’re not going to respond to a survey asking why they didn’t join. If they’re not seeing the value in joining, they’re not going to try it out until they see the evidence – which they won’t see, because they haven’t joined. It’s a vicious circle and for most businesses, a surprisingly high percentage of staff never even try it out.

In this series of posts I’m going to show you how I used email marketing to increase engagement from 1,000 people on our network by 38% and learn their key objections to collaboration at the same time, revealing crucial insights into our culture and how to enable our staff to work better. I’m also going to share how you can do it too – interested? Read on…

  •  38% registration rate
  • 372 registrations
  • Key insights into drivers for collaboration 

The norm

Users that have logged into collaboration software at least once are known as ‘registered’ and the benchmark across the software providers is around 70% – that’s almost one third of staff not taking part.

That 70% is actually quite a positive benchmark and it’s often much lower depending on the type of business and those 30%+ missing staff are a major factor in why many collaboration initiatives fail. Gartner’s report on why ‘80% of social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits through 2015’ remains true and describes the real reason collaboration fails…

Collaboration doesn’t fail because of software – it fails because of culture.

So the big question is, what’s stopping these staff from joining?

  • What is it about the engagement with them that isn’t working?
  • What behaviours are they exhibiting that are preventing them from taking part? A
  • What’s preventing them from changing the way they work?
  • What are they resistant to?
  • What are they able to do?
  • What are their key drivers to change?

What’s clear in these examples is that it’s not just technology that’s important, it’s the behaviors that drive involvement.

Background to the study

At the time of this study we were 6 months into our implementation and had around 20,000 accounts provided to our colleagues. They had all received a few emails discussing the importance of collaboration to our business, how Hive fit in and how it would it was our new way of working. They were all supported by community managers and many received additional engagement from our internal communications teams and their leaders.

…but 40% still hadn’t logged in. That’s 8,000 people who weren’t getting involved and we wanted to know why.

The study

It was clear that whatever was being said to these colleagues wasn’t working so I designed a study to find out why. From the 8,000 I chose a sample of 1,000 and used email marketing techniques to send them series of emails with different calls to action, messaging, objection handling and reasons for getting involved. The interactions with those emails would be tracked and by combining their responses with demographic data I’d build out profiles on what worked, what didn’t and what messaging was most effective in converting them to new ways of working.

How it worked

One of my favourite email marketers is Ryan Deiss of Digital Marketer who provides great insights into building effective email campaigns, funnels and conversions from proven experience of sending millions of emails every year.

In his amazing free tutorial How to stand out in the inbox he outlines a 7 day process to email marketing which really resonated with me because of its directness, simplicity and speed. This would the basis for my study.

In the study I’d send emails across a 5 day period. Each email would continue a story, told by me and designed to create trust, showcase benefits, handle objections and bring the reader with me on a journey to a new way of working.

Study principles

What I was trying to do with this campaign is change people’s behaviors – heavily embedded behaviors that have been a part of how they work for a long time.

Changing behaviors requires trust. Trust between you and the reader. Trust that your values are like their own and trust that those values are ones that they should strive for. In Harvard Business Review’s article ‘The one thing that makes collaboration work’, Larry Prusak discusses the importance of trust to collaboration and how “trust is the new gold.”

Why am I going on about trust? Because trust is fundamental to changing behaviours and key to the success of this study. All the emails came from me, my outbox, my email address and were personalised for each recipient with their name at the top. I spoke to people as a person, not a mailbox and when people asked me questions I was there to support them. The emails were written by me and not corporate news. They were open and honest and described me and my values. It was all part of the story; for more on the power of storytelling see Dave Lieber’s Ted Talk.

And finally, all the emails included an unsubscribe link. This was a conversation, not a communications campaign. People were free to leave at any time, it wasn’t forced and receiving them wasn’t mandatory.

So how did it work?

Good question – find out later this week in part 2 of this series at the link below!

Time for part 2 - at look at the emails, day by day.

Let's go!