Why use social media networks for internal comms

Why Internal Communicators Need Enterprise Social Networks

If social media for internal communications sounds like an oxymoron to you, this is the post that will change your mind. If implemented correctly, social can drastically change employee engagement, increase productivity, and bring your comms technology out of the dark ages.

In this four part #measureIC series, we’ll be covering everything to do with social measurement for internal communicators.

Find out why you should try social, how to choose a tool and find your social voice, how to measure success, and we’ll also be hearing from one of our customers on how they use social to improve their IC.

Internal communications is inherently exclusive and it speaks to a restricted audience. Emails and intranet are private and shared internally. Social media is the exact opposite.

Enterprise social networks (ESNs) allow internal communicators to reach their internal audience in an open environment. Implementing social for internal communications comes with careful considerations but it can be a powerful (and unique) tool to improve employee engagement within your organization.
 

Benefits of Enterprise Social Networks:

Giving Employees a Microphone

An active social media presence gives employees a voice outside of their cubicles, teams, and departments. It offers employees an avenue to celebrate their organization, express happiness at a company event or share exciting moments throughout the day. Employees also get a new source of engaging and exciting content to share, plus a new feedback channel to voice their opinions and ideas for the organization.

The classic internal communications model can feel blocked off and exclusive, impeding employee interaction with no way to communicate back.

As we learned from Gatehouse’s 2016 State of the Sector Internal Communication and Employee Engagement report, internal communicators are measuring impact of their communications more than ever before. Over two thirds of communicators in the report use social channels but often find ESN’s are restricted or the purpose of these networks aren’t exactly clear. That’s where this post comes in handy.

The classic internal communications model can feel blocked off and exclusive, impeding employee interaction with no way to communicate back. Enterprise social networks breaks down the walls of internal communications and opens up doors for employees across time zones and departments to share and interact naturally.

It might be time to put surveys on the shelf — social media for IC even has the potential to make traditional surveys obsolete. With Twitter and other social platforms, communicators can conduct simple surveys and polls to get the pulse of what’s going on in your organization — especially if your employees are already very active on social media.  

Creating Consumer-like Experiences for Employees

Something we’ve been hearing a lot in the IC world is the concept of creating a consumer-like experience for internal comms. Employees come to expect — much like the products they buy — that brands should work to sell them the company’s “exceptionality” and uniqueness, which can often be seen on their Instagram or Twitter accounts. It’s become less about the product and more about the brand personality (think Taco Bell and Old Spice). In an internal communications context, employees are customers and fans of their organization (AKA the brand). 

Internal communications informs employees of what’s going on in the organization with memos, newsletters and of course, emails. But it often does little to sell employees of the company brand and its ideas.

That’s where social media content comes in to disrupt internal communications. Most employees are probably quite active on social media and familiar with how it works to begin with, therefore implementation is actually quite natural. 

In line with this, enterprise social networks prevent the problem of employees who are new to the workforce being confused by antiquated corporate communications. No longer do millennials need to feel as limited in terms of what experiences from their personal lives transfer into the workplace.

Increase in Productivity

The ability to strengthen employee engagement is almost inherent in ESNs — take a look at how B2C brands are using social to attract new customers, build their brand community and create a following/loyalty as discussed above. This loyalty is not just to the product or service, but what it means to them.

Ironically, social media as an internal communication network can actually improve employee productivity. Your CEO might not buy that argument right off the bat, but social really makes searching for information easier. With a searchable ESN, employees will spend less time seeking out useful information and more time using that information or carrying out the rest of their responsibilities.

Enabling Horizontal Networking

Social media in a corporate context also allows for horizontal networking (or peer-to-peer communication), breaking down rigid hierarchies which new and existing employees may be opposed to. Top-down communication doesn’t have to be the only formula in place; horizontal communications allows employees to connect with one another.

Members of a huge organization can feel like they’re apart of traditional team. Being able to connect with the brand — that includes talking to otherwise blocked off employees — creates a more passionate, engaged workforce.

Social lets your employees become the best possible brand ambassadors for your organization — what could make your CEO happier?  In line with this idea, social contributes to the spirit of collaboration across highly segmented and decentralized organizations.

Employees across the world, spanning time zones can easily connect, interact, and even work together, which feels normal (due to our personal social media usage) and yet unlike any other channel in internal communications.

Breaking Down Hierarchies

Generally, small companies get to enjoy flat hierarchies and collaboration that’s lost in large, international organizations. With social, large companies can bring the benefits of small organizations to their own internal comms. Social networks increases transparency and like most aspects of a good company, transparency starts from the inside.

This also gives employees a place to share company wide goals and encourage open discussions. After all, internal comms is meant to create understanding in the workplace and share knowledge — when implemented and used correctly, social channels can do just that.
 

Common ESN Challenges:

Social is Public

Social media for internal communications can sound risky (although we’ll continue to address all your concerns later in this social measurement series). From management’s perspective, the hyper public aspects of an external social network like Twitter may come with some resistance. The nature of social media is public, so not every type of company employee information can be released on your ESN platform.

Adoption by employees

Depending on the vendor, ESNs can feel a bit locked down from the employee’s perspective, especially compared to their personal accounts. Some employee freedom and functionality is inherently lost when a social network is administered by an employer.

Social is not the silver bullet for internal comms — you will still need email and other channels for your communications.

One way to set expectations that your enterprise social network is to be consistently used correctly is to establish a set of social media guidelines — we’ll get into this in our next post.

Social is not the silver bullet for internal comms — you will still need email and other channels for your communications. 

Cost

Another worry is the risk of non-adoption and the cost, particularly for networks like Yammer, Jive or Chatter. Adopting one of these networks is an investment and implementing them for internal comms comes at a risk if they don’t work out.
 

Keeping up with industry leaders

IC has seen many changes in the past years and internal communicators know that keeping up with the changes is imperative to good communications. Now IC professionals are able to finally measure their channels with tools like Bananatag email tracking for internal comms for email, Google Analytics for Intranets, and the social channels we’ll be talking about in this series. Communicators have to be on top of the trends (and find out what works best for their organization and employees) to ensure their communications are the best they can be.

In the rest of this #measureIC series on social, we’ll be going more in depth into social channels for IC and how you can adopt social to improve internal communications. We’re diving into how organizations are successfully taking advantage of social media externally to improve internal health. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!
 

Article by: Alessia Musso

Communications and Events Coordinator at Bananatag. You can find me writing about internal communications, sales, and social media. When I'm not Googling synonyms, I'm usually on my road bike climbing the hills of Vancouver or being a Millennial on Twitter.