Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Social Media Applications for Internal Communications?!? – Absolutely!

I had the pleasure of having coffee this morning with a friend of mine who is a Director for Insights, a global leadership and team development resource. As the conversation wound its way through the dynamics and puzzles of social media and networking use models in the B2B world, she asked me to help her understand how customer references and SMN applications could be used for internal communications purposes. Kathy, my apologies for my profuse and enthusiastic response to your queries, but as I shared with you, I think that there are many internal communications processes that could absolutely benefit from adopting the emerging models in customer reference and relationship management as they relate to the social media and networking trends that are proliferating in the B2B world.

Kathy and I used Human Resources as a metaphor for our discussion and I will continue that mental thread here.

In the customer relationship and reference world, we are beginning to contemplate all of our client assets as potential collateral for shortening sales cycles, deepening and broadening our relationship with prospects, analyst, and other external communities. Many vendors, including References-Online, are beginning to not only offer methods by which sales and marketing teams can present assets to constituencies through email invitations, spotlights, etc., but are grasping the importance of the ability to present materials via communities of interest and social media discussion applications. In previous posts, I have indicated that conversations in these media are happening regardless of our attentiveness or participation, so it certainly behooves us to perform a social media audit/assessment on our own organizations to understand what the dialogue is outside of our traditionally unilaterally fed processes. I believe that the dynamic is identical when we are referring to an internal department such as Human Resources, conveying new policies and procedures, documents, changes in benefits, etc. to its internal constituency. Whether we like it or not, when we release a major change in health insurance and announce it using the standard corporate email memo, the "water cooler" chat that has always happened has now extended to the immediate and much farther reaching world of Twitter, blogs, Facebook status updates, etc. Not only should we be aware and open to this dialogue, but as a participant, an H.R. representative could very quickly gauge the temperature of employee response to policy change, answer questions, provide additional detail, and do this all in a more "social" "human" fashion. Certainly the methodology will vary corporate culture to corporate culture, but bear with me as I carry this idea out.

Hypothetical H.R. Situation that does not resemble any company for which I have ever worked J:

  • Once a week, the CEO of a large organization issues a corporate email (or blog post) to the intranet.
  • He/She announces exciting news, upcoming product releases, and the new enrollment period of the benefits package that will no longer include dental care for dependents.
  • Everybody ignores the exciting new client relationships, feature release for the premier product, etc. because they are furious about the exclusion of the dental package.
  • Some people send emails to the CEO; some call the H.R. department; some stew about it over their cubicle walls….
  • Today, most people get on Facebook, Twitter, their personal blogs, or 'unauthorized' corporate communities and rant and rave.

What would be a better alternative?

Hypothetical H.R. Situation that does not resemble any company for which I have ever worked (really this time) J

  • The Human Resources department has access to a "customer relationship" database in which they catalogue and link to a plethora of benefits, employment, assistance information, including templates for "spotlighting" changes in packages, advice for tricky work situations, even guidelines about telecommuting and swine flu.
  • As often as they feel compelled to, H.R. personnel can search for collateral that answers employee questions, send it to individuals with an email invitation or blast a piece to the corporate distribution list. Vendors such as RO will immediately provide tracking information about clicks on the emails AND individual pieces of collateral so that H.R. can begin to assess its reach and response rates.
  • Better yet, the H.R. team can select critical announcements of benefits assets from their database search and Tweet them under the H.R. Twitter profile, which of course all good corporate citizens follow. If they have the right system in place, the tiny URL that they have included in their Tweet is tracked similarly to content issued in the invitation email. A number of associated applications to the social media and networking tools like Twitter provide them with even more thorough analytics about their followers AND their retweets, in this case, or comments in general.
  • Though still unhappy about the exclusion of dental benefits for dependents, employees feel as if they have abundant information about the changes, multiple access points to share their concerns without retaliation (see post about responses to negative tweets) and may very well engage more effectively with the Human Resource department, reducing strain on them and reduced use of the Employee Assistance Plan.

Bottom line is: Yes, Kathy, I think internal communications processes can greatly benefit from customer relationship and reference modeling and social media and networking applications overall. I've used the H.R. department as a metaphor, but I think the concept applies to all types of internal and external dialogue.

To the rest of you, I, as always, welcome your feedback and comments

Until next lightning bolt strikes, my very warmest regards,


Copyright 2009, Lisa M. Hoesel


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