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Ellis says her team is planting “social seeds” and tracking how ideas and information spread virally through the 10,000-person workforce. She relates a story about a company executive who once sent an email after reading Ellis’s external blog. Through that connection, Ellis gained access to an unexpected level of resources, support, and opportunity.

Another potential benefit of social analytics is the ability to identify effective practices and behaviors and encourage employees to adopt them. Margarita Quihuis, co-director of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, believes that social networks and platforms can facilitate a “pay it forward” mindset and nurture individuals with specific, valuable interests and experience. In a manner similar to artistic patronage in Renaissance Italy, social networking provides the vehicle for aspiring talent to be identified, engaged, and supported across social and organizational boundaries.

By Eric Openshaw and Jerry Belson

By targeting its engagement initiatives, VMware was able to increase community participation faster and with less investment. Over the same nine-month period in which overall membership grew to 95 percent, active participation grew from 26 percent of members to 39 percent. By continuing to measure these rates in combination with other analytics, VMware could expand its understanding of how its actions increased participation and apply this learning as needed.

Sabre Labs is also using social networking to encourage collaboration and innovation. Sarah Kennedy Ellis, director of Sabre Labs, leads a group that incubates ideas and collaborates across business units to identify tools and technologies for producing insights. The group continually looks for partners and champions within the lines of business, so it is a natural fit to use social tools to identify organizational change agents, surfacing them through both internal and public social networks.

The company used performance indicators that measured the level of engagement for the entire company, as well as for smaller departments and position types. Measuring levels of engagement for smaller employee groups allowed VMware to target specific groups with initiatives aimed at boosting participation. These efforts were customized to help members with lower involvement become more engaged, while continuing to encourage and reward groups with higher levels of adoption.

Using Social Analytics to Detect Patterns of Interaction