2012, the so-called year of the social enterprise but let me guess you’re struggling. You’ve gone out there and acquired various social networking tools but are not seeing the results you had hoped for. You might have managed to get some traction in a few departments, but overall your social initiative is struggling. Sound familiar? Well if it does, you’re not alone.

Juan Carlos Perez in a recent ComputerWorld article, aptly points out that you are not alone. The startling fact is that most organizations are struggling with their social network strategies. According to Pereze, “most companies aren’t implementing and using these products properly, leading to unmet goals.” I know I’ve seen this happen before. A company is sold on a tool’s value prop and immediately acquires it. No analysis is made on how the tool fits into the company’s broader goals and strategy. They simply hope that by acquiring the tools it will magically improve the organization. Perez believes that the “main mistake organizations make is not defining clearly the reasons for adopting ESN [Enterprise Social Network] software” and instead jump in in feet first. When outlining your social media initiative it’s important to spend some time thinking through your pain points, and the problem that you are trying to solve. “If that’s not clear, then you shouldn’t be using [ESN]…This isn’t easy. There is no magic bullet to it. It requires a rethinking of the relationships inside your organization, and therefore a rethinking of your culture,” says Perez. Successfully, implementing something as disruptive as social media is no easy task. Luckily, Perez outlines several easily identifiable mistakes we can avoid.

Initial Interest

Ever notice that when something new is rolled out, there is almost always an initial spike in interest. It’s normal; people are always intrigued with something new. However, after a few weeks there’s the all too familiar “sharp drop in interest and usage”. Perez recommends being on the lookout for “strong adoption in only one department [or] confusion about proper use of the software” as these are signs that your social plans are not working. He believes that this happens because of a “lack of executive involvement; and lack of clarity and maturity of the organization’s social business strategy and goals.”

Unsuccessful Integration

Another problem companies face when trying to get the most out of their enterprise social network software is around integration with existing tools. According to Perez, companies “often fail to integrate ESN software into the existing business applications already in use by their employees, like email, collaboration platforms, CRM, ERP and office productivity suites.” By failing to successfully integrate ESN software with existing tools, you are adding another step into an employee’s work day. Forcing employees to exit from one program, open and learn another only raises the likelihood of your social initiative failing. Failing here results in ESN software becoming “yet another stand-along tool that is under-used.”

Tips for Improved Success

Given these problems, how can you successfully implement ESN software? And more importantly get the results you’re looking for. The answer is simple in theory, but difficult in execution. When implementing enterprise social network software it’s very important to have clear objectives. What are your pain points? What do you want this software to help you achieve? It’s also important to devote the necessary resources to manage and maintain ESN software. Lastly, if you really want it to be successful it’s important to get executives involved in it. Perez puts it best by saying that “The organizations that have been successful at doing this are ones that are very focused on their culture: they understand their shortcomings and are using these tools to solve these shortcomings.”