It’s not just your millennial employees who are online all the time. Most likely your employees interact with friends and relatives constantly. It should not be surprising that social media could be a channel for companies to engage their employees in their work. Could your business become one of them?
Effective internal communications embraces opportunities for employees to share knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas. The traditional channels moving information upward, downward or periodically across departments may seem safer or easier because intranets, internal newsletters, town halls, and classroom training has been used for years, but we live in a different world now. If you want to build relationships which redefine your culture and create an atmosphere for spontaneous learning, you have to be where your audience is.
Are you willing for your employees to check their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts at work for updates? Will you and your management team be willing to join and interact in an internal, secure social media group where you and your employees can share information?
There are all kinds of social media software platforms, but a lot of them are industry specific or for large employee populations. For example, if you have a 1000 employees or more, you might want to apply to Facebook at Work where you create a work account for the company which is separate from personal Facebook accounts. With a Facebook at Work account, you can use Facebook tools to interact with co-workers. There is also a Work Chat feature, which is similar to Messenger, offering great spontaneous interaction.
However, small businesses need the same kind of functions for work teams or to support an ever-growing need for mobile and telecommunicating processes.
First though, you need to do some analysis. Let’s assume that your organization is not too slow to adopt new systems and is not too afraid of technology.
- What weaknesses are you finding in your current communications strategies? Are employees forgetting to communicate to the right people, at the right time, and with correct information? Are you missing troubleshooting sharing opportunities on your products and services? Are you finding that employees are seldom sharing new ideas to improve the organization?
- Analyze what kind of communications would best be used within your company’s culture. Which social media do your employees currently engage in for their personal use, what are your current policies, and how would these need to change?
- How can you increase your ability to keep employees informed about compliance or business and sales goals through social media? Where do they currently receive information about your industry and the opportunities for their own growth in their positions?
- Is your employee training engaging? Could you create more exciting ways to learn small bits of information quickly and at a pace that makes sense for your business environment?
If you can visualize any one of these questions converting into engaging content and employee interaction, you need to read further.
We recommend starting with one or two social media channels to pilot a company or department group. Yes, we have our favorites: LinkedIn Group, Facebook Group, and Twitter. Here is why:
You can set up a Facebook group, which unlike a Facebook page, will only be viewed by the employees you have invited to join. If you don’t want to have your administrator liking employee personal pages which is required for a standard group invite, you can set the Facebook group to be “Invite-Only” Privacy Setting. This means your Group ‘exists’ i.e. Facebook users and your staff can search for it by name, and see it exists, but they cannot see any information in the group. The way to become involved in the group, Facebook users must ‘ask’ to join the Group, and their membership must be approved by one of the Administrators set up on the Group page. By keeping it ‘Invite-Only’, you are protecting company information, and the Administrator’s time is only limited to accepting Group requests by checking that the person is a company employee.
One of the best functions of the Facebook Group is that it provides an easy platform for collecting and sharing images. In a closed group, employee communications could share a wide range of images, create albums (like all those photos from the town hall meeting that never got published on the intranet) and encourage employees to share. If you’re want employees to read a memo or sales report, all members of the group will receive personal notification, and all comments will be shared with notifications in one place. You can also see and track real-time statistics of how many people have viewed any given update, and who they are.
From a training standpoint, imagine real time reminders of timelines, great examples of interactions or additional resources to share can easily be upload as notes or documents which then can be downloaded.
We really like creating LinkedIn Groups for internal communications because LinkedIn is known as one of the strongest business focused social media channels. Your employees may not be using it as frequently as Facebook, but they will gain from the content focused on work with so many resources. Just like Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups have various privacy settings. It encourages engagement as it retains multiple discussions, with each discussion in the form of a blog post and room for comments from employees. Unlike a Facebook group where all posts are in a chronological order, LinkedIn shows the latest topics being discussed which could push an update on a topic started last week when someone has a new thought to add. The LinkedIn format encourages leadership in building new discussions by all employees.
As employees review external articles from the LinkedIn news sources, clients, and others, they will become accustomed to sharing these resources in the LinkedIn group. This helps to build a culture for continuous learning while giving employees an opportunity to understand each other’s strengths and capabilities.
If most of your employees prefer Twitter for their social media activity, you can set up a private group on Twitter through an application called Group Tweet. This is a great tool for real-time updating, and should be viewed as an alternative to email or texting. Designed for brief communications, we recommend using Twitter to support what you are doing in your Facebook or LinkedIn group. Want to survey about a topic for the next meeting? Need a trivia question to kick off a discussion? A Twitter group can allow for quick interactions.
As with any kind of open communications within an organization, there are standards which should be set for behaviors expected in internal social media. Ideally, with the right planning and management engagement, social media can be a positive form of communications in your company.
If your company is using social media for internal communications, please share! We would love to hear how you are using these medias.