Social Business Personas

By BroadVision on October 09, 2012

Reputation may be the holy grail of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN). Understanding reputation, measuring it, and setting goals accordingly are essential for your network(s) to add real value to your business.  But how do you measure reputation?

Most social networks  have some sort of activity measurement.  But activity alone[1] does not adequately measure the value of contributions to the network or the network’s value to the business. Activity metrics alone mean that a person who uploads countless cat photos is as valuable a contributor as someone who provides content that (for example) helps close business.

At BroadVision we measure three separate categories of interaction in our social network – when viewed together, we believe these metrics approximate reputation:

  • Connectivity: Measures the people or communities with which each network member interacts
  • Activity: Measures activity and contribution of each network member
  • Popularity: Measures the value of contribution of each network member, as measured by something such as “likes” or “was this useful” voting

Using these metrics together it is possible to group individual network members into archetypes or personas for the purpose of encouraging contribution:

True, humans are complex and often defy categorization.  These categories are simplifications, to be sure.  But every persona can add value to a network, and understanding the personas can help you craft specific strategies for encouraging adoption and contribution. While the examples below draw from a social intranet use case, they can easily be adapted to an extranet use case (for collaboration with partners, customers, etc.).

Let’s look at each persona in turn.

Highly Connected, Not Very Active: The Networker

The Networker is connected with others, but isn’t particularly active.  This person may be an executive who has a wide purview and interacts with many others in the network, but who feels too busy to contribute.  Or this person might be simply hesitant to share their knowledge or “work out loud.”

Adoption suggestions:

  • Encourage your Networker to shift important email discussions to the network.
  • Encourage The Networker to create a weekly “work diary” blog post to share projects and priorities each week to keep their team(s) up to date.
  • Use gamification techniques to acknowledge (and encourage) the Networker’s contributions
  • Is this person in Sales or Business Development? Encourage them to create “war room” communities for collaboration around critical deals. Encourage them to post sales trip- or meeting reports as blog posts to the appropriate regional Sales community.  These actions earn them activity points, but more importantly might solicit insight from a colleague that helps to win the business.


Highly Connected, Not Very Popular: The Dilettante

The Dilettante has bought into the idea of social networking, but has not yet adapted their work habits to contribute in a meaningful way to the network.  This person may simply be uploading content not particularly relevant to your business or their network contributions are largely limited to commenting or clicking the ‘like’ button.

Adoption suggestions:

  • Remind this person that the network is a business collaboration platform and that something they contribute has the potential to make an impact on the business.  (A reminder to keep the postings of cartoons and pet photos to their Facebook page wouldn’t hurt either.)
  • Suggest that The Dilettante aim to eliminate one recurring meeting on their colleagues’ calendars by creating and managing a community for asynchronous collaboration around that topic (i.e. perhaps a weekly project status update meeting can be made virtual).  This is likely to be very popular with colleagues.
  • Encourage The Dilettante to create a blog post with their notes from an industry conference their colleagues weren’t able to attend.


Highly Active, Not Very Connected: The Hidden Talent

The Hidden Talent is ripe with potential. This is someone who is active in the network, but who is very narrowly connected.  This might be someone in a very specialized job function.  Or they might work in a remote, international location with limited understanding of the “official” written language of the network.  But with the right encouragement they can become valued contributors.

Adoption suggestions:

  • Encourage The Hidden Talent to follow their colleagues in the “opposite” functional area with whom they work with most frequently (i.e. Finance with Contract Administration, Sales with Finance, Facilities with HR, Marketing with Sales).
  • Assign this person a task to complete their profile, including photo, contact information, specialized skills, knowledge and interests to help colleagues “discover” them.
  • Set a monthly goal for this person to contribute a blog post or comment at the network level to expose their knowledge to additional colleagues.
  • Encourage them to create and manage a community around an area of shared interest with colleagues in other functional areas (i.e. ‘Travel Tips for Road Warriors’ or ‘Tips for [Language] Speakers’).


Highly Active, Not Very Popular: The Over-Sharer

The Over-Sharer might be your most problematic and frustrating contributor, but is not without potential.  There are two sub-types within this category: the person “gaming the system” and the person simply and innocently creating material or adding commentary of little direct relevance to the business and to their colleagues.

In the first case: unless you want to audit their content and commentary for value or mandate certain activities, you may just be stuck with this person.  Every social network is susceptible to this behavior (i.e. clicking on ‘Yes’ when asked if content was valuable without actually reading the item).  A sneaky way of “outing” this person would be to create a competition with a desirable prize or recognition.  The other members of your network will quickly call out this person for not adhering to the principles of the network and competing fairly.

In the second case: this person may be uploading large volumes of files only relevant to them.  Or they might create lots of tasks only for their manager or teammates.  In either case this person may not be contributing to the overall value of the network, albeit unintentionally.

Adoption suggestions:

  • Make sure this person has a complete profile, including photo, contact information, specialized skills, knowledge and interests to help colleagues “discover” them.
  • Remind this person that the network is a vital business platform and that something they contribute has the potential to make a major impact on the business.
  • Encourage them to think about contributions that would enable serendipitous discovery and consequently more favorable reviews from colleagues.  For example, instead of simply bookmarking an interesting industry article, use the comments section to excerpt the portion most relevant to colleagues.


Highly Popular, Not Very Connected: The Specialist

The Specialist is a rare bird whose contributions are valued, though by very few people.  Like The Hidden Talent this person may be in a specialized team or functional area.  Or they might be in a remote office where a different language is spoken than is the case for the majority of the organization.  The goal is to get this person to really embrace working collaboratively, including with people in other functional areas.

Adoption suggestions:

  • Does The Specialist travel a lot or work remotely?  Encourage them to use the ESN’s mobile app(s).
  • Encourage them to build up their network profile, including photo, contact information, specialized skills, knowledge and interests to help colleagues “discover” them.
  • Encourage The Specialist to follow their colleagues in the functional area their team works with most closely and comment on content as appropriate (i.e. Finance with Contract Administration, Sales with Finance, Facilities with HR, Marketing with Sales).


Highly Popular, Low Activity: The Guru

The Guru might contribute valuable content, but isn’t very active.  This person could be a senior executive who considers themselves too busy to actively participate in the network.  Or s/he could be someone who is a specialized individual contributor who primarily works alone.  In either case, they have probably not embraced the network as the primary platform for business collaboration within your organization.

Adoption suggestions:

  • Encourage your Guru to shift important email discussions to the network for collaboration and later reference.
  • Does The Guru travel frequently or work remotely?  Encourage them to use the network to store and organize (and share) important files.  This way they can access them anytime, anywhere from any device.
  • Encourage your Guru to create a blog to share weekly or monthly insights on industry trends relevant to your organization.
  • Move as many of your travel, time off, and other administrative approvals to your network as possible and use network tasks to manage the process.  This will necessarily impact everyone in the organization. Tasks also ensure that the process is recorded and preserved as an audit trail – something that wouldn’t happen if the approval was done via email.
  • Set a requirement that all personnel (including your Guru) create a weekly/monthly blog post on their profile page indicating active projects and status thereof.  They might solicit valuable, unexpected commentary that will encourage them to be more active.


Why worry about monitoring, measuring and nurturing network adoption?  Shouldn’t adoption just happen organically? As the “network effect” would imply, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it. In this case, the more business-critical collaboration done in your network, the more valuable it becomes to your business. So anything you can do to actively encourage regular, substantive contribution will help to ensure that your ESN contributes to your business goals.


[1] * See also Richard Hughes’ excellent post “10 Things You Should Measure During Your Social Network Adoption”