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Author's profile photo Richard Caballero

The Art of Measuring Social Network Adoption

The precipitous drop in the Twitter stock price earlier this year created lots of debate of the value and viability of the company.  Much of the criticism came from declining user growth and traffic. Clearly, there is a direct link between the revenue potential of the company and user adoption of its service. Similarly, the business value we can expect to realize from our enterprise social networks should correlate with our employee adoption metrics.

Let’s look at the user adoption metrics that the investors are focused on:

  • User Growth: User growth is measured on a quarterly or annual basis. The number of users measured is called the Monthly Active Users (MAU). MAU is the number of unique users in the past 30 days. Therefore you are considered an active user if you login once per month.
  • Usage Frequency: Daily Active Users (DAU) is the number of unique users that access the network every day.
  • User Consumption: Timeline Views are the number of views per monthly active user. A view is considered a timeline request, refresh or query. This is a measure of the average consumption of an active user.

mau dau.png

Active vs. Registered User Percentage

As you can see from the graphic above, Twitter is being compared to Facebook and not fairing very well. However, based on research from Forrester, Deloitte and Neuralytix, enterprise social network adoption is lagging even further behind. I believe that if we design our networks properly, we should reach adoption rates at least as high as Twitter and Facebook. After all, we all need to demonstrate business results every day and our enterprise social networks should enable us to deliver.

Not all Usage is Created Equal

Wall Street was up in arms because Twitter’s user growth dropped in half and timeline views were down 3% year over year. Twitter’s response was that while user & timeline view growth is slowing, engagement and monetization of the user experience is increasing. In other words, users are engaging with ads more, increasing ad revenue per view. This is analogous to higher levels of engagement in enterprise networks. If users are liking, commenting & downloading content, we can assume that employees are seeing more value from the network. Therefore, in addition to measuring the frequency of usage, we want to understand the quality of that engagement:

  • Consumption: This is a measure of how many times pages are being viewed. This is a passive engagement mode.
  • Interaction: This is a measure of lightweight engagement. It includes low overhead contributions such as comments, status updates, chats, questions, ideas, kudos, links, photos and poll votes.
  • Contribution: This measures significant content creation and work activity.  It includes creation of groups, blogs, documents, polls, tasks, videos and wikis.

Let’s take a look at what the usage pattern might look like for a typical enterprise social network:

usage pattern.pngExample Usage Pattern Heat Map

I recommend that you create this chart with your data to get a baseline view of your current adoption. You can then begin to create targets and plans to drive increased adoption. The expected growth curve will not be linear due to the nature of employee engagement. As the network grows, we should see usage frequency increase at a faster rate than engagement quality.  We also should not set a goal for the majority of users to be daily contributors; the majority of users will consume and interact.

usage growth.png

Example Adoption Growth Curve

Show me the Money

According to Community Roundtable research, 85% of best-in-class communities can measure business value. In other words, user growth and engagement analysis is fine to help you ensure your network is healthy but it is only a proxy. What really matters is the business results that the community is driving. While it is difficult to prove and quantify the impact, it is worthwhile to measure the correlation of user adoption with business performance. Some examples include:

  • Performance rating correlation: Can we show that those employees that are active users also have higher performance ratings? Do employees that take corporate education classes that have a social learning component have higher performance ratings? If our social network truly helps drive business productivity and transforms learning, why wouldn’t we expect this?
  • Win rate correlation: Do opportunities that have a virtual deal room also have higher win rates? If your sales VP gets wind of this, they will require social collaboration groups for every deal in the company!
  • Employee engagement correlation: Do active social network users also have higher employee engagement scores? Connecting with management, peers and feeling you are making a positive contribution to the company via social networking should all drive this business benefit.

So if you are struggling with how to measure and analyze your enterprise social network, gather the data points we highlighted above and begin to map out your goals on how you can drive improvement within each category. Please share your thoughts and experiences. What adoption metrics do you track? How did you determine your target adoption levels?

Follow SAP Social Software on Twitter: @SAPSocial

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks Richard, great summary! I also did some research on performance counters in enterprise social networks during my master thesis last year and agree that not the sheer size of a network counts. Interestingly also social network parameters like density, eigenvector etc. are influencing. Even more: The relevance of content. So it makes sense to have deeper look into content of the networks and about what network members are acting and in which way. KPI's could be derived from there.

      Regards to correlation with business: There is an early stage collaboration with SAP and a social media consulting company based out of Berlin, Germany called complexium who tackles exactly this correlation issue between KPIs and hard business numbers. I am happy to share more details soon!

      Author's profile photo Richard Caballero
      Richard Caballero
      Blog Post Author

      I think your comment about content relevance is spot on. Relevance is even more important than quality. The value of the content to the members will drive activity. Increasing the volume of relevant content is a great lever to drive increased engagement. I will reach out about the Complexium study. This insight could be very helpful to our customers.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      I agree completely that your metrics should depends on goals that you set. Most of vendors (YammerMicrosoft, Sitrion, Jive and so on) are willing to work with you on scorecard and data.

      Since I am conducting the research study on adoption of social software in organizations,  I would like to clarify what do you mean under adoption metrics. Sometimes, when I interview internal community managers and ask them about their social software adoption rates they share the precentage of "active", users, participants and collaborators. For me, this kind of metrics belong to "engagement rates". Adoption rate indicates how much time it took to reach the highest engagement rate. Also, I wonder about the ESN average number of active users per month that you cited. You mentioned research studies by Forrester, Deloitte and Neuralytix. Do you mind sharing which particular studies you refer to?

      Author's profile photo Richard Caballero
      Richard Caballero
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for your comment Olga. I think you have a point about making a distinction between current adoption (or engagement) rates and the growth rate of the network over time. Forrester has many reports on this subject. You can find some additional information here:

      Deloitte Study:

      Neuralytix Study:

      I would be very interested in looking at your study as well!