Today, we’ll kick off a series on Internal Social Media, talking about why it can be valuable, and some of the ways to make it happen. Stay tuned for more posts in the series all week, culminating with some thoughts from the trenches.
When we talk social media, we often focus on the relationship between business and its external audiences or communities, and how technology can impact communication within them. However, there’s a very real case to be made for why social media can and should be used inside the walls of your company, even before you consider an external strategy: as a testing ground for ideas, as a mechanism for improving internal communication, and as a diagnostic tool.
As I’m fond of saying, social media adoption and implementation in companies is often more of a cultural shift than an operational one. It touches on issues of role and responsibility change, skills evolution, communication style, risk tolerance, and trust that have sometimes rested very comfortably inside an organization for some time.
Leading with social media internally can highlight some of the potential cultural shifts and obstacles that might impede broader strategies. Whether it’s fears over criticism, uncertainty over productivity issues, or breakdowns in communication or information flow inside the company, setting up social media tactics on the inside can bring them to the forefront and increase the likelihood that you can address them within your walls first.
Implementing social media programs internally can help spur discussion about some of the biggest barriers to broadscale adoption: risk assessment. Considering the implications of opening up communication channels, allowing feedback and commentary, flattening hierarchies or dedicating time to new strategies can lead to discussions about potential risks: cost, productivity, confidentiality, accountability, technology access.
Having these discussions first and in the relatively confined walls of your own company can mean laying out a plan to mitigate and address those risks in a manageable timeframe, and with the ability to test solutions before making them externally visible.
Companies sometimes do a weak job of translating their brand internally, and social strategies can improve that. Internal social networks can encourage broader discussion of company goals, purpose, and vision, and can allow those conversations to happen within levels and across silos in the company (instead of the typical top-down approach).
Employees and team members can gain a greater understanding of larger company strategy through information sharing and dialogue, and executive and management teams can garner feedback and input on the brand and its presentation from the point of view of the workforce. Broader understanding of company purpose can often uncover better and more effective ways for departments and teams to work together toward common goals.
Ideas – and great ones – can come from all parts of a company. Small changes or transformational shifts in thinking can be found right in our own backyards. What often keeps those ideas hidden, however, is the lack of a mechanism to share them, and the sense of permission to do so (especially for those that may be outside one’s functional area of expertise).
Social technologies – wikis, forums, idea sharing tools like UserVoice, or simple suggestion boxes in the form of blogs or message boards with comments – can provide ample opportunities to share, generate, and build on ideas in a collaborative, open format that has visibility across the organization.
At our core, humans crave connections and affinities with others like us. In companies, however, organizational design sorts us by our skillsets and functions and geography, not typically our interests, personalities, or ancillary talents and skills.
Giving employees the opportunity to gather around points of common interest – whether they be personal or professional – online and outside the bounds of physical location can unlock collaborations powered by complimentary skills, friendships, and stronger working relationships. What can all of that lead to? Morale improvements and an increased sense of collective purpose, for starters. Companies earn reputations for empowering and connecting their team members, and retention, recruitment, and even alumni networks can see an uptick.
Knowledge And Information Sharing
Spock didn’t say it exactly, but the knowledge of the many can far outweigh the knowledge of the individual. Collective and collaborative knowledge bases can be rich stores of information, taking tribal knowledge and the information that lives in people’s heads and giving it a tangible, searchable, annotated and permanent (editable) home.
Having central and accessible knowledge could perhaps have a positive impact on training and onboarding programs, as well as continuing education initiatives and cross-functional information sharing within companies to help people do their jobs more efficiently, more thoroughly, and even more creatively.
These are just a few of the ideas, of course, to get started thinking about social media inside business. What other purposes can you see? What are the benefits, and potential reasons why internal deployment can help pave the way for other things? Let’s have your ideas in the comments?
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about addressing some of the fears and hesitation that social networking brings to the forefront.