Last week’s workshop on using social media for internal communications at Melcrum was a packed house and a packed agenda. As intranets become less effective, and distributed working arrangements challenge traditional lines of communication, interest in social media is on the rise. Here are three examples of what people have been doing:
The JetBlue University, within the US Airline, picked up social media and ran with it as a business tool.
Notice how they allowed the structure to ‘evolve’ – social media allows “bottom up” development, which usually leads to a better fit with the needs of people within the business. Things like structures of tagging and information (ontologies) are very hard to get right with a top down approach.
IBM is often cited for their very effective use of social media both within the organisation and outside of it. In this short clip, IBM’s Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communication, talks about “letting go” of traditional views of communication controls. He also points out that social media doesn’t create new problems, it simply highlights existing ones:
Best Buy might not be a name that springs to mind when it comes to social media, but the retailer has embraced the tools in all sorts of different areas within the business. This clip talks about “The Company as a Wiki” – an evolving on-line collaboration space:
While there is no ‘template’ for deploying social media inside of a business, there are generally three clear phases:
Most businesses have built effective internal communications mechanisms that borrow from the broadcast world, from direct email and internal magazines to internal TV channels. These get the message out, but usually don’t provide a means to get meaningful feedback, or to gather and spread knowledge from the edges of the organisation.
From “CEO Blogs” to interactive sites, providing the ability to comment on, or even just rate, communications gives a way for employees to start to interact. The interaction is very different from email, since it is visible across the organisation – rather than just between one or two employees. This phase gets people used to communicating “in public” – this is a much bigger cultural change than it sounds, and is the first step to less structured and less formal communication in the digital domain.
In the final phase, communication moves from top-down with feedback, to a peer-to-peer model. All employees become content producers, and knowledge is shared in a very distributed manner. Social ties within the organisation become stronger, and become the predominant force for moderating behaviours and communication.
The video clips give some ideas of what can be achieved, and the nature of the journey. Ultimately, each business will follow a different path, and the adoption of social technology needs to be tightly aligned to existing business goals. It isn’t about the tools, it is about communication within the business, and building stronger relationships that enable effecive collaboration and sharing – that’s where the competitive advantage comes from.