I have a stock phrase I regularly roll out when it comes to social media: “You go where the party is.”
If an employer wants to communicate effectively, it is best to use the channels that people are on, not try to create new ones.
There is an interesting additional dynamic that comes up when we start to look at organisations’ internal use of external social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook. Because non-employees can see the content, organisations can be fearful of the potential ramifications.
This can lead to a preference for corporate social tools, such as Yammer. Although these have their place, if, at the same time, we talk about the need for greater transparency in our organisations, then they don’t really achieve that.
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There are a number of real opportunities we can take by using social channels to communicate internal employee messages, including benefits. First off is the chance for employees to opt in and to engage as and when they want, giving them control of their communications.
Second, employers get to see the level of engagement through free analytic tools. For example, a Facebook page can help you see which posts are really hitting home, rather than sending a global email and hoping for the best.
Perhaps more importantly, the organisation lets prospective employees see what is genuinely going on. It is employer branding, but in the truest and most vivid sense. If information isn’t confidential, why shouldn’t we let the whole world view it if they want to?
Social media is not the panacea, it is not a solution to anything in itself. But as part of a blend of communications, it can have big upsides. And, given there are free options available, it would seem foolish not to experiment.
Neil Morrison is group HR director at Penguin Random House