You are not alone if you are finding the challenge of adopting a new social tool is both fraught with high expectations and underwhelming participation. Guerilla experiments are often very successful, and the tension to build that out into viral adoption is like a tightrope  One minute you’re widely successful in sign-ups, and then next, not even the crickets on your network are chirping. Congratulations! You’re evolving and progressing from just kicking the tires of social to beginning to extend it to other parts of the organization. The great news with social is that more than with any other type of IT application that has ever been rolled out in your organization, it provides built-in adoption support. That’s because one of the beautiful things about social is that it produces data unlike any other application. And that data is your friend because it is going to help you successfully expand the adoption of social, which in turn generates more useful data, and so on, in a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop.

What can this social-based data that is automatically generated do for you? Well, for starters, it can help you quite accurately measure both the pace and quality of adoption of your social platform. It can also help you identify the colleagues that you can really rely on to accelerate adoption. You will also be able to measure the impact of social adoption vis-à-vis your existing systems. Now this type of hard data can go a long ways toward sustainable adoption of your social platform, but remember that people tend to learn best from stories, and so stories of success within context of various relevant use cases will be an important type of “metric” to communicate as well.

So let’s take a closer look at some metrics that will help you kick-off your adoption journey as you move on from the pilot stage.

Active User Growth. By active user we mean users who are more than just social sign-ups.  You want to measure the growth in the number of people who are actually using the platform. A simple but effective metric for measuring active use of your platform is to count the number of users who have performed at least one activity in the last 30 days, where an activity includes a post, a reply, a like, a follow, or group join. You will want to measure this every week or two to make sure your adoption is really taking hold.  

Influencers. You need all the help you can get to ensure successful adoption, and so identifying the early adopters of your social platform who really have a positive effect on the adoption by others is key. These influencers are those who are both active themselves and stimulate a lot of interactions by others with respect to the posts they contribute and other activities. So, metrics of influence should take into account the total interactions of others with respect to a user’s posts. For example, for each user, you can determine the number of people following them plus the total number of likes, replies, and re-shares of their posts by others (and these can be weighted in various ways and may be slightly different, depending on your specific social platform).  This will give you a good idea of the people you should particularly enlist in helping you keep up the adoption momentum. 

Success Stories. Hard data is very important, but again, most people best learn from, and remember, stories. So actively solicit success stories, and really work to propagate these success stories. And the best success stories are those by skeptics who have eventually come around to see the value in the platform. Cynics can smell hand-picked, canned stories from a mile away. Make the stories real—have some of the actual struggles and caveats mixed in with the stories’ positives. And remember that what really resonates best with sponsoring executives are stories of how people get things done faster and better through social that directly affect the bottom line in a measurable way.

Technology Stack. The relationship with social platforms and existing applications can be best described as coopetition—simultaneous cooperation and competition. That is, the social platform in some cases will subsume what legacy applications have previously been used for because social can do it better, and in other cases, social will make legacy applications actually do more and better work for you, thereby amplifying their value. It is not too early at the very beginning of the expansion of social in your organization to measure the results of this coopetition. In some cases that may be with hard data, such as, say, a reduction in emails. In other cases, it will be in the form of a success story—for example, how social is helping you get more value out of a legacy analytics package by making it easier for users to collaborate on the analysis.

 So, you’ve got some great data and you can identify the key influencers, which means that you are not alone! Communicate your adoption data and success stories (and realistic growing pains stories) and make it happen!