Companies improve internal communications with social networks

Digital media from Google search to Facebook are forcing companies to rapidly evolve how they do business. Marketing, PR and sales departments have witnessed major changes in the past decade as they are forced to adapt to how consumers are communicating and buying online. However it remains both a missed opportunity and an oversight for many companies who have only used social media to communicate externally. In comparison to the US, too few companies in UK or Ireland are using social media to communicate and engage with ones of their most important audiences – their own staff.

Internal Social Networks

Over the next few years we are going to see a major shift in how companies use social networks to facilitate internal communication, workflow and general management practices. Just as PR and marketing units use Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to open up real-time, two-way communications with customers, the new evolving internal communications channels allow more companies to engage with a community of employees.

According to research on the use of internal social networks by recruiting company Hyphen, there is a clear opportunity for social media to be used more for internal communications and organisational development programmes. In a survey of more than 1,500 people, they found that employees wanted to engage more with senior teams via social media channels: 42% would be happy to talk with their line manager or team leader over Facebook, and a fifth would even be content tweeting the head of department or chief executive. Likewise, nearly 40% of managers would be happy to reciprocate.

However, the world’s leading social media networking sites such as Facebook have a number of limitations in being used as internal communications tools. So companies who want to make their internal communications more open and social have turned to dedicated internal social networks. Internal social networks such as Yammer and Socialcast are fast replacing outdated staff intranets and expensive and wasteful print communications as a way to engage employees. And it’s not hard to see why. The major benefit of the new internal social networks is that they aim to replace a very traditional top-down form of communication with two way conversations throughout the whole company. According to Zain Waddee, MD of Hyphen “Harnessing this interest could have significant benefits for organisations, enhancing internal communications and creating opportunities for innovation and knowledge sharing.”

Companies who have invested in using internal social media networks find they benefit from listening and learning from what employees are saying about internal issues and learn from the issues they raise. They also find that a social based communications networks help them facilitate a more mobile workforce as employees can access the internal communications network from different sites via mobile devices in order to post real-time updates from various locations.  Internal social networks are also private within a company and are not visible by the general public. All employees don’t get to see everything on the network as secure private groups to discuss certain topics and share files etc.

Internal Social Networking Brands

The internal social networking landscape is dominated by two major brands – Yammer and Socialcast – which are both designed as an enterprise system for businesses of all sizes.

Yammer is world’s leading internal social network and is owned by Microsoft. It’s used for private communication within organizations and pre-designated groups and can be accessed via a company email addresses. Yammer has over 200,000 customers worldwide ranging from small businesses through to large multinationals such as Zerox. In fact, 85% of Fortune 500 companies use Yammer for internal communication and workflow sharing.

Socialcast shares many of the same features and benefits as Yammer and its platform allows companies to create an overall social network that can be accessed and used by employees to collaborate on workflow and to engage with employees across the organisation. As a brand it’s perhaps seen as playing catchup to the more established Yammer but has been attractive enough to be the system of choice for major multinationals such as 3M, Nokia and Philips.

Written by Paul McGarrity.

Paul McGarrity is Director of Octave Online Communications, an internet marketing consultancy based in Belfast. The consultancy helps business and organisations to benefit from online marketing strategy and campaigns.

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