Corporate Eye

7 Strategies For Employee Communication via Social Media

A guest post from Mitch Thompson for you this morning; I invited Mitch to write for us on using social media for internal communications.

Social media has come a long way in the last five years. Once used to kill time and stay entertained, the social web is now deeply ingrained in the day-to-day operations of businesses large and small.

Communications is no exception – in fact, it’s one of the premier uses of social media in the corporate environment. Instead of relying on outdated bulletin boards and impersonal memos, tech-savvy executives are now using online tools to communicate more quickly, more personally and more effectively.

Here are seven strategies for implementing social media communication in your company.

Establish Clear Ownership

One of the biggest problems companies have when implementing social media at the corporate level is that no one department has clear ownership of it. Who’s responsible? Is it marketing, HR, senior management, or perhaps a newly anointed person/department? There is no one ‘right’ answer, but the old saying applies: when it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.

When a company’s social presence is run by different departments, it invariably falls short of its full potential. Each week sees the birth of new ‘initiatives’ and experiments, rather than the continuation of one solid direction or approach. As a result, social media fails to become the rich communication channel it has the potential to be. Pick one person (or department) to be in charge and give them authority over the channel.

Protected Twitter Accounts

One of the quickest ways to immediately leverage social media for corporate communications is Twitter. But there’s a twist: established businesses shouldn’t sign up for the same public Twitter accounts that individuals use. Rather, executives will want to use what’s known as a ‘protected’ Twitter account.

Basically, a protected Twitter account is one where only approved followers (employees and colleagues in this case) can see your Tweets. Once established, your protected Twitter account can be used to share anything of company importance: memos, reminders, event invitations, etc. You can even go a step further and establish protected Twitter accounts for each department. This way, everyone gets tweets that are very pointed and relevant to their job duties without getting overwhelmed by things outside of their purview.

Corporate RSS Feeds

RSS feeds offer another way to rapidly disseminate information across the company. RSS (which literally stands for ‘really simple syndication’) enables executives to create ‘feeds’ that employees and co-workers subscribe to via tools like Google Reader. What can you syndicate using RSS? Actually, just about anything you wish.

Today’s RSS technologies permit you to syndicate text, videos, audio files and virtually anything else you can send along in an e-mail or instant message. The benefit of using RSS instead is that you can create the content once (say, a reminder or memo) and effortlessly blast it out to everyone in a completely streamlined and trackable format.

Internal Company Blog

If you aren’t ready to experiment with Twitter and RSS yet (or even if you are) a much simpler way to bring social media into your communications program is just to set up an internal company blog. This is distinct from any customer-facing blog you might have. Rather than publishing PR stories about the company, your internal blog is meant to convey information that’s meaningful to employees and executives.

A major plus of having an internal blog is allowing employees to comment on each post and paying attention to what they say. This is a priceless form of feedback – encourage people to freely and candidly share their thoughts on company blog posts. Furthermore, use these responses to drive new initiatives or employee programs based on what you learned.

Bring Social Media Reports To Regular Meetings

For some companies, social media (whether in the form of blogs, Twitter, RSS or Facebook) is an island unto itself, a hermetically sealed, back-room ‘experiment’ that no one else in the company interacts with or hears about. This is a mistake! The whole point of corporate social media is to improve communication and performance throughout the company.

Whoever is in charge of corporate social media should be bringing reports to regular company meetings and contributing insights based on what was learned. This can be employee tweets, blog comments, shared stories – literally anything that sheds light on how the company can change or improve in some meaningful way.

Obtain Executive Buy-In

Social media will not go very far in a corporate setting without buy-in from top executives. Absent this key support, whoever is in charge of social media will constantly be fighting an uphill battle, struggling to make suggestions or changes on the basis of an initiative only they (or at most, a few non-senior managers) support. Left to continue this way, your social media communications program will stall and stagnate.

Don’t make this mistake. From day one, let it be known that everyone, from the CEO on down, is fully behind the social media initiative (both in spirit and in terms of resources allocated.) Only then will the company embrace social media as a lasting fixture instead of a passing fad.

Not For Entry-Level Employees

Finally, it must be noted that social media is not suited for entry-level employees or interns. Whoever is responsible for the initiative should be, if not a senior executive, then at least someone with a long history at your organization. Someone who thoroughly understands its culture and has interacted with all of the various departments in the past.

The reason this is so important is that the entire organization must be on board. If one or two departments are not committed to social communications and refuse to participate, the entire initiative has failed. Moreover, the job of running and monitoring your internal social media channels is very comprehensive – someone fresh out of college or with only a few months experience at the company will likely be overwhelmed.

Thanks, Mitch!

About the author: Mitch Thompson is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finances and small business. From car insurance to taxes, Mitch educates readers so that they can achieve financial success.

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Great article Lucy! Do you think that tools such as ‘Yammer’ can go some way in replacing the protected Tweets and the RSS feeds.

I understand the benefits of following those outside the organisation, but if that’s a bit much, would you say Yammer is the next best thing?

Also, very much up for Social Media reporting in meetings, but it’s difficult to get tangible measurements!

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