One of the key balancing acts facing all organizations is the trade-off between structure and serendipity. Structure provides “the rules of the road” that ensures the efficiency and consistency required for sustaining high productivity. Serendipity is all about the unintended connections that occur outside our normal patterns that foster new ideas and help drive improvements and growth. Too much structure and serendipity can suffer—the paving of our daily cow paths inhibits trying out the new things that can lead to improvements. On the other hand, insufficient structure is the path to inefficiency and chaos. The notion of finding the right point in this trade-off when managing organizations has sometimes been termed as “loose-tight” management—managing both loosely enough to enable serendipity and its resulting innovations, while managing tightly enough to ensure a smoothly operating organization.
So, as your social platform adoption progresses to the “everywhere” stage in the organization, what are the measurements that enable you to gauge whether you have struck a good balance between structure and serendipity? Well, measures of social structure should include the appropriate use of groups and topics, or their equivalent. In particular, nearly all posts should be associated with at least one group or topic, and preferably more than one. There should also be a reasonable distribution of content among groups and topics—groups or topics that are associated with nearly everything or that are associated with nearly nothing are not very useful. So, some good measurements of adequate structure for mature social deployments include:
- Orphan Posts: The percentage of posts not associated with a group or topic (should be <1%)
- Nurtured Posts: The percentage of posts associated with more than one group or topic (should be >90%)
- Structural Richness: Ratio of the total number of groups and topics to the total number of posts (should be > 2%)
These metrics should be at least a good starting point in ensuring that you have a social structure that supports a high performing organization—more sophisticated measurements of the dispersion of posts to groups and topics are, of course, possible.
Whereas with structure, your metrics can essentially be snapshots in time, to measure serendipity, in a sense, you need to be looking at a video. You want to get a handle on new connections among people and content and flows of information. So the kinds of behavioral information you have at your disposal to gauge serendipity include sub-community membership and following patterns, as well as interactions with posts. Good measurements with which to gauge adequate serendipity for mature social deployments leveraging these data include:
- Joining/Following Growth: Ratio of number of new group joins and follows in the last 90 days to total group joins and follows. This should reasonably be expected to stay above 5%, since some memberships/follows should also be pruned on a continuous basis, and so the net growth in follows will likely be below 5%.
- Network Externalization Growth: Number of new external network memberships in the last 90 days (strive for growth each period)
- Engagement Breadth: Percentage of posts that receive at least one reply or like during the last 90 days (strive for > 80%)
- Engagement Depth: Ratio of total likes and comments to total posts during last 90 days (strive for > 2)
By publicizing and applying these metrics, the mature social deployment can be tuned accordingly to continue to simultaneously promote efficiency and vibrancy. For example, if there are too many orphan posts and/or not enough nurtured posts, a reminder of good social discipline to your social users may be in order. If structural richness is lacking, perhaps actively encouraging the creation of new groups and/or topics is called for. If following growth has stagnated or if engagement breadth and/or depth is lagging, a reminder to users that it is also OK to prune their networks by unfollowing when appropriate may be helpful, and discovery tools that automatically surface relevant posts may also be helpful.