The amount of organizations that evaluate or implement enterprise social software (ESS) is growing. Since these tools and their use are evolving, research literature in the area is limited. My research focuses on the challenges around adoption of ESS and factors that impact ESS adoption. While interviewing internal community managers from organizations that use ESS, I noticed that many of them mentioned “leadership support” as one of the key factors of successful adoption of Jive, Yammer, Socialcast and other social software. However, the understanding and the explanation of “leadership support" by each community manager was varied. Some of them thought about “executive support” in terms of resources or a sponsorship: CEO approved the purchase of the social software and positions of internal managers; CIO allocated personnel and create infrastructure to support software implementation, integration or customization.
Others community managers praised C-Suite for exhibiting social support, promoting ESN or even being a model for using ESS. According to just published Community Roundtable's 2014 Report on the State of Community Management (2014),“ in best-in-class communities, 58% include CEO participation vs. average CEO participation rates of 36%”. According to this study, the general engagement rates are higher if CMO, CEO and CIO actively participate in community conversations, post content or provide feedback. The CR report does not go into details about the quality and quantity of the executive participation and leaders' communication content/style. However, according to anecdotal data and numerous posts on the discussions boards, not all forms of executive participation and messages engage community members or be welcomed by them. If discussion boards or micro-blogs posts are not authentic, too formal or even seem ghost-written, community members do not post comments. Some executive blogs mediate comments or disable this functionality. Not all executives are accepted by the internal community and not all their “online identities” stimulate open conversation and trust. It will be interesting to research leader-followers relationship in internal communities that utilize ESS.