Using Social Media to Build Internal Communities

Using Social Media to Build Internal Communities
Social media marketing gets us thinking about creating communities of people outside of our business: the customers, prospects, suppliers, and others who we regularly interact with. We also need to build our internal communities!
In this session, we’ll explore what building the internal community can look like and how we can make it work.
Does it Mean Everyone is Online All the Time?
While you are consciously thinking about your external communities, the next consideration is your internal communities. We know that water cooler chatter, loading dock conversations, and the internal ball team already exist, and that they are a good reflection of the social beings that we are. Instead of focusing on just the external community and a marketing benefit, we are encouraging you to look at your internal community, too.
Many companies still frown upon employee use of social networks, so websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter may be blocked on company computers. Not surprisingly, employees simply pull out their phones to complete status updates and keep in touch during their breaks if it’s not forbidden!
Interacting with social media doesn’t necessarily mean that people are distracted from their work or making poor use of their time. We often encourage employees to eat meals together (food is a great tool for community building), take part in community events (have you volunteered for a blood drive, charity bowling, or Habitat for Humanity?), and yet we are still hesitant in many workplaces to encourage internal social networking.
From the perspective of employee engagement, internal connections, community, and acceptance are critical, so we recommend that you consider carefully what the limits are for social media within your company. In addition, there are social networking options that help you develop your internal community while preserving dedicated work efforts. (See Session Fourteen: Using Specialty Sites for more information.)
If your company issues staff a BlackBerry or iPhone, that encourages communication with other phone users without costing money. Other places have an internal instant message system or set up an internal message board or forum that is just for employees. The benefit of these systems is that they allow people to communicate within the organization, even if they are off-site. People who work from home, travel a lot, or are located in different offices but work on project teams, for example, all have ready access to one another.
Using internal social networks has value, are an inexpensive way to develop internal relationships, and they connect people. If you facilitate these internal networks, you may find that it is a productivity booster rather than a time waster. You’ll provide a venue for people to have conversations about work and out of work topics and a sounding board for working through ideas. You might even cut down on employee negativity or chagrin that would otherwise be shared on public social networking sites.
We often see job advertisements that are looking for candidates who can collaborate, work on cross functional teams, work flexible hours, and work well together. We also hear about people who feel isolated and refer to working in silos, or being kept like a mushroom – in the dark. Can our people be more effective and more engaged when they have the opportunity to take part in some of the water cooler chitchat from their computer or a mobile device?
Being socially connected internally should not be frowned upon if you want your employees to get to know one another. It also sends a message about your commitment to building community internally and externally, and even bringing the two together.