The two-day Melcrum Social Media conference for Internal Communications started today. So far, the most interesting thing I have got out of it is the reinforcement in my mind that appetite for social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, or Yammer – the internal version, is a personal thing. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad about it.
It was also encouraging to hear fellow internal communicators voicing what we already know: the more you learn about what the different tools can be useful for, the less afraid you are to use them.
The focus of the afternoon session by UK-based presenter, Euan Semple, was essentially about understanding the opportunities for harnessing the way employees are now communicating online, both inside and outside the organisation.
The session reinforced some important things:
- It’s about conversations: We emphasise all the time that great employee communication is conversation-driven. And unsurprisingly, it’s the same with social media. Social media tools are not terribly complicated. They’re really just a way of having more person to person conversations.
- Control to influence: He reinforced what we’ve also found, that one of the fears organisations have about using social media tools internally is that they appear to be disorganised and lacking in control systems – yet this is actually what makes them user-friendly. Because they are created and evolve organically, based on what the employees are interested in and want to talk about. This also means the business has more, not less, opportunity to influence what is happening. The internal communications team can tap into existing successful employee-led forums to seed questions and topics of discussion, rather than trying to push a ‘corporate’ version.
- Ask for forgiveness, not permission: Again, supporting our counsel that piloting tools and giving them a go is advisable for companies wanting to dip their toe in the social media pool. Rather than feeling that it’s absolutely necessary to first build a social media strategy and get buy-in from the whole senior team before launching a new tool, sometimes it’s just best to go out there and try it. Get a few people involved who you know are interested, for instance in a wiki or an online discussion forum, and then see how it grows. If there’s appetite for it and it turns out to be popular, it becomes a hugely useful source of knowledge and information for the organisation.
- Risk v reward: One of the things we know is top of mind for our clients when it comes to using social media is the perception that inappropriate conversations could pose a risk to the organisation’s reputation. Particularly if sensitive or damaging information gets out. And who has the resource to monitor all of this? It’s worth remembering that a) emails are not screened, yet they too can be damaging, and b) if you don’t trust your workforce, then you have a management issue, not a communication issue. Meanwhile, encouraging free and open discussion (based on a good social media policy and user guidelines) can only help to demonstrate the trust you do have in them.
- It’s not just the young who are interested: Statistics seem to show that the level of interest you may or may not have in using social media is not based on your age at all, but simply on your way of thinking. For instance, a large proportion of Facebook users are women over 30, not the typical twenty-something Gen Y-er we all might imagine.
I’m looking forward to hearing and sharing more tomorrow.
By Alison Pignon.