Despite the advances social media has made in recent years, the employee-social networking relationship is still complicated: there are many companies who do not know how to engage employees positively in social media and reap the benefits of the many possibilities out there—Training courses? Style guides? Instruction manuals? Employee communities? Even though the early days are well past, companies still have a long way to go and the opportunities are increasing. No one has the perfect formula.
Given the diversity of uses and possibilities, on developing social media communication in the organization, it is most important to have one thing clear: it depends. Yes, depending on what we want to do; we will have to choose one communications channel or another. Social networks aren’t an abstract entity to be handled in isolation, but instead blend different aspects of communication and business management. That’s why before we put any effort into social networks we should see where it fits.
For this article and the next, I have developed two theoretical frameworks that can help us define what kind of social usage we want to encourage in social networks in our company.
In this particular article, I describe the majority of communication methods that companies can employ via social networks (based on a classification by the expert, Marisa del Pozo, of corporate communication types) and in the second article, I will give a new way of defining the different employee profiles using social networks in the company. This will help us to plan strategically and make intelligent “social” investments.
USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN COMPANIES BASED ON COMMUNICATION METHOD
External social media (communication with the outside world):
1. Communication and corporate image: An across-the-board communication that brings in line all communication activities the company undertakes in any area to transmit their vision and mission. Any activity in social networks may be a sign of building this image: publicity campaigns in Facebook, through to employee participation in the company blog, or using employees to communicate or throw company events. It is important that the image promoted faithfully reflects the organization. If all other social networking efforts move in the right direction, this will lead to good corporate communication via the networks.
2. Media relations: Social networks are widely used to create long lasting links with different communication media. The typical cycle for a company press release published in a “traditional” online communication media involves dynamizing different social platforms through both the communication media itself and the company’s social media professionals: tweets, updates in Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn. But often the cycle inverts and “traditional” communication media feeds on information gathered in social media for their news: it is common knowledge that news comes out first in Twitter ahead of traditional communication media, or even that news happens in Twitter, as in the recent case of a manager fired for his comments in the micro-blogging network.
3.Business-to-business: Communication between companies, where channels specific for the professional world, social networks like LinkedIn or Viadeo, are used to establish ties with professionals in the same industry. Although these relationships may also occur in general social media like Facebook or Google+. Business-to-business seeks deeper and lasting relationships. A specialized corporate blog for the sector for which company experts write is one idea.
4. Publicity and direct marketing: Curiously social media are associated with this kind of communication and it’s true they are very sophisticated in this sense: corporate web pages in Facebook. LinkedIn or Google+, used to promote the brand and publicize products in an increasingly interactive way, while engaging the consumer in competitions and in “gamification” mechanisms. Even if this kind of communication in networks has become richer with indirect publicity, content generation, and non-commercial communication in blogs, forums, surveys and debates in any network.
Internal social media (within the organization itself)
Social media above all apply to these kinds of communication methods.
1. Communication and corporate image: As we said earlier, this kind of communication is applied both externally as well as internally. Again, be reminded that using social networks in any context of the company pays off with a good corporate image of the company. It is recommended to create manuals and guidelines as well as training courses which also help to strengthen employee motivation.
2. Employee communities: The internal social network communities allow state-of-the-art collective knowledge management in many areas of organizations—from improving innovation processes through to “social” appraisal systems or social learning. These internal communities already existed previously, but now they are developing their social capacities more than ever (social profiles, chats, work groups, etc.). What’s more, “gamification” initiatives can greatly improve these processes (points, levels, rewards…)
3. Client communities: Very similar to the previous ones, except users are the clients. CRM is socializing and new platforms are emerging to support these communities. Here these have special significance for innovation processes. Engaging the client in the creation of the best products is always top of mind in companies, but if this is done through social networks the process speeds up and intensifies, boosting productivity.
Lastly, as we have constantly been saying, whatever the communication method cultivated, it is worth stressing how important it is for Communication and HR departments work hand in hand when putting in efforts into social networks.