Thursday, 3 November 2011

Internal Comms and the Social Media Revolution

This article from Marketing Week caught my eye this week. Coca Cola are launching a new internal social network, as a mechanism to support their global employee base in staying connected. Sainsbury’s are apparently trialling the same thing although their objective seems a little less focused.

Social networks seem the obvious way to go for big companies and as more and more do it I shall be interested to see what the early results are. I think there will be sections of companies and industry sectors in which this works really well, and others in which it just doesn't fly.

Why? Well much depends of course on the thing being done well in the first place. Presuming a great job is done however, creating and sustaining an internal social network will still throw up all kinds of good questions for the trail blazers (which hopefully have great, innovative answers).

For example: how do you make this work for front line staff in the retail sector? Or for those who need to remain focused in call centres?

How do you get employees to engage with corporate social networks, when they already have enough going on with Facebook and Twitter? And how do you engage those sections of the company who have no interest in online networking at all?

What about the corporations who have banned F’book and Twitter under suspicion of lowering productivity? Do they feel differently if their staff are talking only to each other?

Honestly, I don’t know all the answers and it will be different for everyone. For a start though, internal comms professionals will need to be thinking about:

Focused, measurable objectives

Buy in at the highest level

Engaging managers

Intranet access at home

Mobile devices for non-desk based staff

Relevant, regular content

Identifying advocates

Engaging entry points

Maximising the online network offline

‘Social’ is set to become a prevalent part of the internal comms mix, and is already a key part of HR strategy for many. Today at the HR Tech Europe conference, the audience heard from Ian Bird, Social Learning Leader at IBM who says that, “social is the glue for hiring, learning and retention”. (IBM is a long time leader in this field with their maxim ‘not mass communication, but masses of communicators’ standing out from their social computing guidelines - which were themselves created in a wiki by IBMers).

My sense is that we are reaching a tipping point and that soon there will be few internal comms and HR professionals who can afford to ignore the social media revolution. I certainly don’t think every company should have their own social network, far from it. Depending on your objective, a social network for its own sake might be rather missing the point.

Rather companies should be thinking a bit further ahead, and facilitating the social behaviour of employees both on and offline - to learn, to share, have fun, and just get stuff done. Twitter is just the twip of the iceberg (sorry). What’s more interesting is to think about what something like Pinterest might mean for sharing great work across a global organisation, or what the corporate version of Streetbank might be if you applied it to skills instead of stuff... Oh and if you want to explore social learning, you could do a lot worse than take a look at NoddlePod.

There is so much great work just itching to be done here. Viva la revolution!

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