By Rachel Miller
Collaboration is the most popular term to describe social media inside organisations, knowledge sharing is the main reason for introducing it and 69% of comms pros say their companies have welcomed, not blocked, internal social media.
The majority came from the private sector (70%), 28% public sector and 2% charity. Most of the questions were multiple choice because of the nature of the topic, and the range of options available, so some of the totals equal more than 100 per cent to reflect this.Results showed the phrase ‘internal social media’ covers a variety of channels including:
- Intranet (80%)
- Enterprise social network (62%)
- Collaboration sites (59%)
- Instant messaging (58%)
- Blogs (56%)
- Polls (37%)
- Streaming audio or video (27%)
- Wikis (24%)
- Video sharing site/channel (23%)
- Apps (16%)
- Podcasts (11%)
- SMS (11%)
- Other (3%) (e.g. Google hangout)
The aim of this research was to explore the language use around social media inside organisations, which has been evolving in recent years, and to highlight the experiences of internal communication professionals today in areas like adoption, support, policies and experience.
Rachel Miller said: “Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. It’s important to view social media as a mindset, not technology, and to make choices that are right for individual organisations based on their culture, ways of communicating and what they want to achieve.”
“From conversations with my clients and listening to people in my network, I realised there was a gap in terms of information among comms pros into who is doing what, what works and particularly what name is given to internal social media.”
“The velocity of change is unprecedented and IC pros are working hard to create, manage and open up different ways for employees to communicate and participate in two-way conversations. These results show how adaptable and versatile practitioners need to be.”
“The aim of this research with simply-communicate is to provide comms professionals and students with a snapshot view of what the current situation is among their peers and equip them to have conversations in their own workplace.”
“Effective communication offers opportunities to think differently inside organisations and find ways to inspire and engage employees. There’s not a one size fits all approach and these results intend to be a starting point to aid discussions.”
Marc Wright added: “The spur to build these platforms has been technology with the arrival of new tools like SharePoint 2013 , Jive and Yammer. Now we have to put technology second and consider company culture first. What these results show us is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to social. All companies will become social in their own way.”
Why introduce internal social media?
Improving knowledge sharing was given as the main reason for introducing internal social media, at 76%, followed by connecting employees with each other (74%), breaking down silos (55%), driving conversations (52%), reducing time employees spend looking for information (31%), providing real-time information (28%), to keep up-to-date (28%), because employees expect it (25%) and to reduce costs (13%).
When looking at how information flows inside companies: 46% of respondents said theirs is top-down/hierarchical, followed by 40% silos, 26% open and transparent and 24% with information flowing bottom-up and top-down.
It appears that regardless of organisational structure, employers are finding ways to communicate internally using social media by making decisions that suit how they operate.
Choosing the right platform is only the start of introducing internal social media, it needs to be coupled with cultural change and be embedded and championed at all levels of an organisation Only then can it become part of the way business and communication happens.
Results relating to the maturity of internal social media plans state that 28% of people have just started thinking about it, 24% have launched a platform/tools, 19% are finding it working well in pockets of the organisation, 12% have selected a platform, 12% say it’s part of the way they do business and communicate and 6% say it is fully embedded in their company.
What’s in a name? What do you call internal social media?
The following names are used to refer to social media inside companies:
- Collaboration 42%
- Enterprise social network 31%
- Internal social media 22%
- Social media 18%
- No specific name 18%
- Social network 15%
- Digital 16%
- Information sharing 9%
- Knowledge management 8%
Other names reflect the tool that is being used, e.g. Yammer, Chatter or Socialcast, or names unique to the company e.g. Inside Centre, Chat! and Partner Hub.
Use of the word collaboration demonstrates the need to clearly define what platforms and programmes are intended to achieve and their primary purpose.
Comments included: “We have so many names, and that’s the problem! It’s time to drop the social tag inside business because it’s all about the enterprise (business).”
Surprisingly, when asked if the term ‘social’ has to be avoided, results revealed that overwhelmingly, it does not cause problems – with 85% of people saying that was the case.
- Social is what it is
- No negative connotations with the word social
- Nothing wrong with word social as long as people explain the context behind it
- Social is ambiguous, so needs to be avoided
Some internal communicators raised areas of consideration they have encountered. For example in France, the word social can also refer to partenaires sociaux (trade unions).
Support for internal social media inside organisations
When asked what CEOs think internal social media is and what they call it, comments revealed a lack of understanding and unease from CEOs:
- I don’t think he knows of its existence
- He’s not comfortable with it
- Don’t know
- Internal comms
- He avoids speaking about it at all as he isn’t a fan
- Unsure what he thinks, but has endorsed it
- Very involved
- He understands the use and importance of social media and calls it by that name
- He just calls it a channel
- Not sure what his stance is, but sure he calls it intranet
- A digital platform where employees can freely share information with each other
Who’s in charge?
Internal social media is largely managed by Comms departments, with 57% responsible for championing and overseeing, followed by 33% as a joint effort, 20% IT and 11% Marketing.
There is a sense within the internal communication community that there are ‘blockers’ to using internal social media. With that in mind, participants were asked if that was their experience.
However, these results reveal the opposite, with 70% of people saying no part of their organisation has blocked the idea and only 28% saying they have experienced some blockers.
When asked to expand further, ‘blockers’ were revealed as: departments such as IT, Compliance or Legal. Plus local restrictions in countries due to groups like Works Councils in Germany or Government restrictions. GlaxoSmithKline, for instance, are rolling out their Yammer network around the world except for in Germany where it is being blocked by the Works Council there. PwC had the same problem and German colleagues were forced to put questions on the UK platform as they could not find a German-speaking experts to work in America. Using social they found 5 candidates in one hour, and the ban was lifted.
- We’re not ready for transparency
- Our policies scare people into not using social media
The research also underlined the importance of creating a social media policy or guidelines, with 80% of organisations having one in place.
When asked about its length, 1-2 pages long was most common (37%), followed by 2-5 pages (21%), less than a page (17%) and longer than 10 pages (3%).
17% of respondents said they have not published their social media policy.
One organisation found that: “In pockets of the business, middle managers discouraged the use of Yammer as it is ‘not seen as productive or valuable use of time.’ Launching our social media guidelines assisted with this issue.”
Managing internal social media
When asked if their social strategy is aligned with the business one, 42% of respondents said yes, 27% weren’t sure, 17% don’t have a social strategy, 11% said no it’s not aligned and 3% said their business doesn’t have an explicit strategy.
Internal and external social media efforts, teams and messaging are aligned in 24% of organisations, are starting to be in 40% of companies and are kept separate in 37%. This demonstrates the lines between internal and external communication starting to blur and there is an expectation that this figure will increase in future.
What’s the reality of introducing internal social media?
What has the experience been like for internal communication professionals introducing internal social media?
When asked about the difficulty of doing so, 66% said it was ‘what we expected’, with 17% finding it better than expected and 17% worse than expected. There isn’t an indication as to whether this experience is positive or negative.
The majority of respondents (41%) say they have barely scratched the surface of getting effective results from using social media, 28% think they are getting results some of the time, 20% most of the time, 6% say they are not getting effective results, and 5% are seeing effective results all the time.
How can organisations get better results from their social media efforts? The majority of comms pros who answered the survey cited reasons why things aren’t working as well as they could be and had ideas of how to improve.
Reasons for it not working were fuelled by a lack – of time, resources, education, understanding and buy-in from senior managers.
When asked how much companies expect to pay per employee for new platforms or training and implementation, most respondents were unable to cite a figure, with popular answers including “not sure, next to nothing, and as little as possible.”
However, some comms pros had detailed breakdowns, such as: 15 Euros per employee (125k for 8000 users – including licenses and support costs).
Communication budgets are often used for internal social media (40%), followed by the whole business (28%), IT (25%), joint-effort between departments (17%), Marketing (7%), HR (6%) and Finance (1%).
The majority of communication professionals are investigating ways to introduce new ways of communicating inside organisations. They are focusing on the culture of their company and making decisions based on their environment, what they want to achieve, budgets and aligning their work to the business.
The language can often seem ambiguous and education was given as a key requirement – in terms of what platforms are available and informing comms pros and senior leaders. This is important to enable organisations to make the right choices and smart decisions to aid their internal communication and ways of working.
About Rachel Miller
Rachel is an Internal Communication and Social Media strategist and one of the UK’s leading social business influencers. She started her career as a journalist then spent a decade working in-house for companies including Visa, Novartis, Tube Lines and London Overground. She was named in PR Week’s Top 29 under 29 professional communicators. Rachel wrote the chapter on how social media is changing employee engagement and internal communication in the best-selling book Share This, and on social media for corporate communication in the sequel Share This Too. She writes a popular blog at www.allthingsic.com and runs her own consultancy.