Research tells us that there’s a positive correlation between companies who are using social media to engage the public and consumers and their bottom line. Google, Starbucks, Dell and EBay are just a few of the companies who are benefiting from this two-way communication. One study shows that companies with the greatest breadth and depth of social media engagement grew revenues 18 percent over one year, while companies that were the least engaged dropped six percent on average.
But what about social media for internal communications?
So, financial numbers are telling us that social media is a good tool for selling to consumers, but is it a good tool for communicating internally? And, is there a correlation between using social media to engage employees and the bottom line?
Many companies remain skeptical, but the fact is that how people search for, find, share and communicate information has completely changed from five years ago, and I believe that five years from now it will go through another evolution, with almost all internal communications being produced and distributed online. (As Peter Shankman of HARO pointed out during a conference: Who watches the evening news anymore as a source for information?)
Trying to communicate in print and static online sites is much like trying to shove a square into a round hole. The thing is, it’s really not the communications content that needs to change as much as the tools through which it’s distributed. As long as it’s ethical, a company’s key messages are what they are. You can dress them up a million different ways, but a goat is still a goat, even when it’s wearing a tuxedo. But, truly, I want – and employees want – to be communicated with, and I believe that despite the recent debacle on Wall Street, most of us start a conversation with the understanding that it’s going to be open, honest and good.
And, if a company is ready to begin using social media internally, or just raise the bar some more, there’s a technical tool for every need, just as there’s a lid for every pot. In some cases, it might even be as simple as enabling existing networking tools on a company’s portals or intranets, for instance.
The greatest hurdle companies face when trying to incorporate social media internally is fear from upper management that employees will post negative comments. But, companies have come up with various ways to handle this, including having a site moderator to allowing posts only if the author lists his name. I’ve yet to hear of a company being undone by comments made by employees via blogs, forums, etc.
If you’re weighing the advantages of social media internally, consider:
1 – Transparency is a beautiful thing, and social media allow companies to have real-time, authentic conversations with employees.
2 – Social media knows no rank, allowing communications to flow from the top to bottom, bottom to top and side to side. It also knows no physical boundaries and can be accessed around the world (as long as you can plug in/log on).
3 – Leadership who use social media to converse with employees are generally well liked and well read by employees. Employees like to know that leadership cares enough to have a venue for conversing with them.
4 – Gen Y and younger Gen Xers are so used to two-way communications that they don’t really pay attention to anything else. They give the most credit to the friends they text for information.
5 – Viable and robust social media at a company is a fantastic recruiting tool. As a matter of fact, companies way far behind in this area are at a distinct disadvantage.
On a final note, it also takes employees some courage to engage in social media with their employers. Most of them, sometimes not wrongly so, believe they are giving up a certain amount of privacy in regards to their personal information and life in order to be a part of the dialogue. So, they’re invested in the process, too.
(If you liked this post, take a look at the follow-up: Is Social Media Good for Internal Communications? 5 More Reasons Why Companies Should Consider It)