David Armano at Harvard Business blogs takes the gardening metaphor further, suggesting that there are three steps to go through in creating a vibrant social network, whatever its purpose:
Suppose you are setting up a social networking site where people from within your organisation can set up a profile, get in touch with experts and voice and answer questions. The worst approach is to build the site and assume that people will turn up. They won’t. Instead, seed the community with a core (say 12 – 30) of positive, well-disposed, active employees who will get involved from the start.
This core will set up not only the right activities – discussions, forums, shared videos, whatever – but will also set up the right culture. A polite, sharing, communicative, no-blame culture where collaboration is welcome. That’s crucial to the success of your network.