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Getting Internal Communications to Work with Social Media driving social technologies within an organization, the number one question that I hear from top level executives is “what problem would this be solving for us?” And trust me, it’s hard for me to contain myself when posed with this question and not stand up on my soapbox about how social media can drive engagement and collaboration. But, the bottom line is that the successful integration of social technologies within a corporate enterprise isn’t just about innovation or enablement, but it is also the ability to fill a business need. And, from an internal communications perspective, finding the right balance between social technologies and existing communication channels is especially important. When you’ve identified this, that’s when you see the biggest executive support, employee adoption and measurable results.

For just a moment, separate out the business strategist within you from the social media geek. And, take a look at some of the following issues that often need to be addressed in order for social technologies to gain a foothold within your organization:

Business Priorities versus Enablement Enthusiasm

I have never been able to see a social media strategy get executive support without it being directly tied to a business priority or strategic imperative. I repeat… NEVER. It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the social media whirlwind, but it’s essential to make it relevant not only to the employee, but also to the business.

In my day-to-day, it’s easy for me to align social media strategies to the business objective of driving employee enablement to increase productivity.  In HR speak, that means using social technologies to bring as many HR transactions forward as much as possible to drive self service (e.g, time management, payroll, benefits, manager tools, etc.). What are the goals for your company and how can social media technologies drive the company to meet them?

Innovation versus Invasiveness

When working with a large enterprise, you inevitably have varied adoption levels towards new technology. One of the coolest trends I’ve seen lately, is the demo of a collaboration site that contains Facebook-like notifications not just for activity on employees’ social profiles, but for alerting employees to task-based actions that are tied to HR transactional systems: filling out a time sheet, creating performance objectives, approving expense reports, etc. It’s an innovative way to push information to employees that require a timely response; however, for each employee that doesn’t mind a company pushing desktop alerts, you will find another employee who finds it invasive. So the challenge, then, is to balance the use of innovative tools against the comfort level of your employee base — otherwise you risk an extremely low adoption rate and very little ROI.

Take a pulse of your employee base and see how THEY would like to receive information. And, once you’ve determined this, don’t send the same information to your employees using all of your internal communication channels. Instead, make content delivery relevant to them by prioritizing and segementing what information you will be making available to employees via these social technologies and ensure that this information is unqiue from other communication sources.

Information Delivery versus Your Corporate Intranet

The past couple of years have proven that we are in an ever-evolving world of information delivery. This change applies to the corporate world as well. Where once the only means to deliver “corporate speak” to an employee base was through corporate e-mail, we now have a plethora of other methods at our disposal through collaboration sites, RSS feeds, Twitter-esque notifications, etc. In terms of internal communications, social media is a powerful tool in delivering information to employees beyond the traditional walls of existing communication channels such as corporate e-mail and your intranet. The key is to balance the synergies of the two. If your organization has been investing significant capital into a completely enhanced corporate intranet to drive more employee traffic TO it, then it might not be as keen to implement a social technology that delivers content in lieu of the intranet and takes users AWAY. So, if not taken into consideration appropriately, your social media and  internal communications strategies could end up working against one another.

Engage your internal communications and HR teams to make sure your enthusiasm for social technologies doesn’t override any goals and objectives they might have. Work together to figure out the best delivery method for various communications — news stories that are pushed via RSS feeds don’t necessarily need to be duplicated by a dedicated e-mail. Or, see social technologies as a means to deliver abbreviated messaging to employees, while still directing employees back to the corporate intranet for full-length information.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? By all means… share them here!

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