Cesare Mainardi writes thoughtfully in the The Wall Street Journal Online suggesting that if you “Want to screw up your social media? Keep doing what you’re doing.” The lessons are about social media in the enterprise in general, but they are so basic that they can be applied to social media in internal communications as well.
In this 2006 BusinessWeek article, “!#@ the E-mail, Let’s Talk,” Diane Brady offers a strong summary of all of the things wrong with email. And this, of course, was before the real rise of social media. The painful truth is that, as much as we may use e-mail, its weaknesses as a means of internal communication grows more evident daily. The big difference, of course, is that companies have adopted email. Social media, not so much.
Michael Chui, Martin Dewherst, and Lindsay Pollack over at McKinsey have done a superb article on “Building the Social Enterprise,” in the McKinsey Quarterly in November 2013. We like it because it endorses quantifies our main point, that the real value in social media is inside the organization, not outside.
“Two-thirds of the value creation opportunity afforded by social technologies (an estimated US$ 900 billion to US$ 1.3 trillion) lies in improving communications and collaboration within and across enterprises.” In other words, there is at least US $600 billion in annual value from using social tech tools for communications and collaboration behind the company firewall. What a remarkable opportunity!
Source: McKinsey Global Institute, report on The Social Economy
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Why Worry About Internal Social Communications?
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are now appreciated as critical communications tools for companies who want to engage with customers and external stakeholders. However, few companies yet have a clear understanding of how to effectively use social media internally.
There is plenty of talk about social media in the business world, much of it a debate. On the one hand, social media users wonder whether companies belong on social media at all; on the other, there is no shortage of companies who view social media as a toy at best, and a costly distraction at worst.
To address those concerns, a host of evangelists and practitioners have offered up a cornucopia of guides, textbooks, and handbooks on why and how companies should use social media to deepen relationships with customers, vendors, partners, and the public at large.
Despite that avalanche of words and clever diagrams, most of these publications fail to explain why and how to use social media as an as an internal communications tool. Many industry leaders hold the view of one social expert that “If social isn’t impacting your direct customers, there isn’t additional value to internal communications.”
Such attitudes fly in the face of reality. A company that fails to communicate internally is a centrifugal beast that lacks the ability to adequately respond to opportunities, to customers, and to market changes. If a company has shoes of lead, social media as an external communications tool is little more than a salesman’s gimmick.
Companies need to be social, both internally and externally. This post and those that follow will begin a dialogue on a piece of the social business puzzle largely missing from best practices dialogues today – the use of social technology tools to drive effective internal communications.
Completing the Social Business Puzzle and Your Experience
Our goal is to save companies from themselves. Companies will struggle to stay competitive if they adhere to a myopic view of social business that ignores the importance of internal communications. Organizations and the people within them communicate as a matter of course. Indeed, the very purpose of a shared workplace is the facilitation of collaboration through formal means (meetings) or informal means (ad hoc discussions).
So, why would collaboration, conversation, and information-sharing not simply happen within organizations?
What has been your experience?
Can social business practices naturally spring up from a firm with external social activities in place? If not, what communications practices are needed to grease the wheels of internal communications through social platforms and channels behind the firewall?