I’ve had countless conversations with corporate leaders about social media, and usually, they go something like this:
Me: “Social media is really important. You oughta check it out, if only because it’s completely and permanently changed the communications landscape we’re operating in.”
Executive: “Yeah… I know the social media train has left the station, but we’re not really on board. Sure, lots of people are using Facebook and Twitter. But realistically, that really doesn’t have any impact on us because we’re not involved in that stuff. I mean, who has the time?”
This disconnect is particularly exacerbated when talking about employee communications and engagement. It’s tough to get senior leaders to wrap their heads around the fact that social media has totally, and permanently changed not only external communications, but perhaps more importantly the way employees connect, engage and communicate internally.
Enter, the Top 3 Truths of Social Media:
- Even if you’re not using social media, both your internal and external audiences are. The rise of social media has forever changed your audience’s expectations of the immediacy, authenticity and relevance of communications. When a Fortune 500 CEO, political leader or a rock star is just a Tweet away, the sense of connection, access and authenticity is profoundly altered. When news of a disaster on the other side of the planet streams through Facebook faster than through online news sites, the perception of time is compressed to a point where seconds matter. And when corporate titans and government leaders offer an unprecedented degree of transparency via social media, expectations of information are forever changed.
- It is the death knell of command-and-control communication. The old way of communicating was all about hierarchy and tight constraints on what is communicated to whom and on what schedule. Social media has turned this on its head, and there’s no going back.
- It changes internal communications. Just because your organization doesn’t use social media externally, doesn’t mean you can ignore it internally. If anything, its impact is especially significant in internal communications, since it transforms the expectations and cultural context for the exchange of information. It’s worth thinking about how this transformation can create opportunities to build engagement, collaboration and co-creation.
How can this shift toward thinking about the internal impact of social media help fuel your employee communications and engagement efforts?
First, the content strategy model that is now entrenched as the core of a successful social media communications strategy, can be tremendously helpful in dialing up the relevance of your internal communications. Check out this Content Strategy Worksheet for Employee Communications and Engagement for some ideas on getting started.
Next, consider how the spirit of connection and sharing of information freely in a non-hierarchical model can apply to your off-line internal communications. For example, how can you structure your next employee town hall meeting to have a social media vibe? Think in terms of opportunities to foster connections and idea generation in real-time.
Finally, recognize the gravitational pull within your organization to revert back to the safety blanket of a command and control approach to internal communications, and call it out. Incrementally, you can help effect leadership by helping your organization adopt a more open, agile, authentic approach to employee communications one email or CEO speech at a time.
For more thoughts on employee communications and engagement 2.0 check out this presentation I recently delivered at the IABC Canada West Conference in Victoria, B.C. A best practice paper and primer are also available online.