Many business owners are beginning to see the importance of using social media as a component in their external communication strategies (business-to-customer marketing), but few have ever thought about or see little value in using it internally as a communication tool. Some company leaders, in fact, have banned the use of Facebook in the workplace thinking it will distract employees and adversely affect their productivity. A client of ours recently said, “If I let them chit-chat on Facebook, it’s just one more thing for me to manage.”
We respectfully disagree. Rules that forbid inconsequential things such as the internet, Facebook, and Twitter, send an “I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you” message loud and clear. And when you treat employees like errant children they will never elevate themselves or aspire to higher levels of trustworthiness and integrity. By the way, if you have the right people and effective managers then those concerns don’t need to be on your string of worry beads.
Research indicates that social interaction (whether in person or online) creates engaged employees which, in turn, often lead to greater profitability, increased customer satisfaction, higher employee retention, more frequent transfer of knowledge, and more innovation. A study by the Aberdeen Group showed that 52 percent of organizations that use blogs, wikis, and other social networking tools achieved “best-in-class” (significantly superior to the industry standard) performance levels compared to five percent for those that didn’t.
For example, Canam Group, a Canadian manufacturer of construction goods, set up a Facebook group that is accessible to all employees and retirees. The result? Their corporate culture changed and is now highly collaborative. IBM developed a Facebook-like social networking tool they call “Beehive” to facilitate personal and professional connections within the company, which has been especially helpful as the number of remote workers has increased over the past several years.
Communication Made Easy
Effective internal communication (top-down, bottom-up, and peer-to-peer) directly relates to the long term success of a business. Creating mechanisms to share expertise and ideas creates an environment of thought leadership and shared learning. Social media tools also enable you to more easily listen to and build relationships with employees, resolve issues, share information about industry trends, inform employees about new products and services, news, and events, increase internal brand awareness, communicate information during a crisis, and diffuse the ever-present rumor mill.
With the proliferation of smart phones, social networking tools make it easier to communicate frequently and instantaneously-and in a form used by the younger generation far more than e-mail. This will especially a consideration as boomers retire and are replaced with employees who have been “powered up” and using social media since they could read and write. We’re not recommending eliminating other more traditional communication methods, by the way; we’re just advocating using them all when and where they are most effective.
Here’s the thing: Employees are using social media whether your company policy bans it or whether you are resisting it (actively or passively). We believe the best strategy is to embrace social media and use it to your best business advantage.