The profession and perception of internal communication (Internal Comms or IC) has undergone many changes over the years, moving from newsletter writers to trusted business advisers. Or at least that’s what we hope. Much work has been done, but there’s still a journey ahead. However, it’s the area of social media and its role for and in internal communications that is the current bump in the road for many.
I’m going to look at 10 reasons why internal comms professionals should use social media and share some thoughts to help you make smart choices.
Finding ways to champion and integrate new channels and for employees to connect and communicate with their company is an essential part of internal comms’ roles. However, when it comes to using social media to do so, many IC pros get stuck. There has been an air of uncertainty in the IC community for a couple of years now and I think 2013 will see it reach tipping point.
This is the year of social, both internally and externally for organisations. The expectations from those around us are that we are adept at communications and conversations. Social media, or any other term you wish to use in its place, is a key part of that information flow for companies. One of its benefits is the ability to identify who you need to reach, helping avoid the scattergun approach of simply splaying messages in the hope that one will hit your target.
How do internal comms pros use social media?
I conducted some research in October 2012 – How Internal Comms Pros Use Social Media, examining both personal and professional (managing or writing on behalf of an organisation) use. I publicised it via my blog and Twitter and the full results are available as an infographic. Some of the answers total more than 100 per cent because they were multiple choice.
By the nature of the survey, we can assume that those answering have a vested interest in social media already. The majority of respondents are based in the UK and it revealed that 93% of communications professionals expect their professional use of social media to increase.
Of the internal comms pros who responded, 55% felt people expect them to have a ‘good understanding’ of social media. An additional 33% felt they are expected to ‘know all about’ it.’ So 88% of respondents experience that expectation, but how does that translate in reality? Let’s look at the sites they use:
The sites internal comms pros use personally are (multiple choice):
- Facebook and Twitter (94% each)
- LinkedIn (91%)
- Instagram (42%),
- Pinterest (33%),
- Personal blog (31%)
- Google+ (25%)
- other (6%)
- MySpace (4%)
Professional use (writing or managing on behalf of their organisation):
- Twitter (69%)
- LinkedIn (40%)
- Facebook (39%)
- blog (35%)
- enterprise social network (23%)
- none (20%)
- Google+ (11%)
- Pinterest (7%)
- Instagram (5%)
- other (2%)
I found it interesting to see the difference between personal and professional use. What do you think of these results, are you surprised by them or are they as you would have expected? You can see them all via this infographic.
In the driving seat
This month marks four years since I joined Twitter and started my internal communications blog. At that time I was undertaking research as part of an Internal Communications Management postgraduate diploma at Kingston University in London, whilst continuing to work full time. For my dissertation, I wanted to examine social media’s role in internal communication and decided the best way was by doing and discovering for myself.
It’s the same as driving a car, you can read all the theory you want to understand how a vehicle operates, but unless you have been behind the steering wheel and driven, you can’t complete the learning experience. How often do you still hear people dismiss Twitter as ‘why would I want to read what people have for breakfast?’ – a true indication that they haven’t at least attempted to understand it, let alone sat in the driving seat, to complete my analogy.
My research revealed internal comms pros learn about social media from each other. There are thousands of IC professionals globally across many social networks, making good use of LinkedIn groups, Quora discussions, G+ communities and much more.
The IC Crowd
In September 2012, I co-founded @theICcrowd with two comms friends of mine, Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson. It’s a Twitter-based community to bring IC pros together to connect and communicate; they tweet a query and the crowd responds.
We’ve crowd sourced some of the knowledge via information sheets to capture it for other IC pros to benefit from. Since launching, we’ve held a face-to-face meet-up, discussed the community on SimplyTV, and crucially, seen IC pros want to get involved. Plans are now underway for a free unconference event in London in June 2013 to gather the crowd once again.
I tweeted that I was writing this column and as part of my thought process, decided to ask: Should IC pros be qualified in social media? Feedback revealed some people thought the world qualified should be swapped with participate. The consensus is that in order for IC professionals to champion social media use, they need to use it themselves.
Views included: “IC pros need to fully understand social media, particularly if they are encouraging other people to adopt it, it’s an essential tool for collaboration but not the only trick in the IC mix, and it’s the ‘user taking charge of comms channels.’”
When thinking about qualified as in training, there are now various courses for internal communications professionals to learn about social media, including those offered by PR Academy.
Here are my 10 reasons why Internal Comms pros should participate in social media
1) Using social media personally builds your confidence to use it professionally
2) Experiencing new channels yourself equips you to make smart business decisions
3) It enables you to grow your network, particularly through LinkedIn groups or Twitter chats (such as #Commschat)
4) There are thousands of interesting articles, people and resources at your fingertips
5) Your employees are already using social media
6) Information and relationships via social networks can improve your personal and professional development
7) Employee expectations mean real time communication is the norm. IC pros need to understand what that looks like and plan accordingly
8) External and internal comms teams need to work together to know what their communities are saying about their organisations. Social media presents options to do this.
9) The world of comms moves fast. Participating enables you to keep up with the pace of change
10) If you are job hunting, your social profiles, such as LinkedIn, are a fantastic way for potential employers to discover your skills and interests
As an internal comms professional, how are you participating in social media?