With the explosion of social media, most businesses have adopted it in some way within their organization. A recent survey noted that nearly 90% of businesses now use social media for business purposes, but at the same time 36% of employers are actively blocking access to social media sites for employees. Many workplaces have found balance by incorporating workplace focused social media. Sites such as Yammer and SharePoint, have allowed organizations to incorporate the Facebook experience of social media within their organizational boundaries.
With these new communication channels developing, what was previously water cooler gossip can now reach an entire organization with the click of a mouse. It is important for change management experts to both address and utilize this new medium in their communications around change activities. To do this, we must answer two key questions about the developing communication channels.
1. Is social media an appropriate tool for Change Management?
Communication is a key factor in any successful Change Management strategy. Without being able to communicate to all levels of the organization you risk a loss of understanding and it will be hard for the program to build buy-in and support as it moves forward. Traditional channels of communication continue to be the preferred medium for change management as they are usually well established within an organization and are used for other forms of corporate communication as well. These include: emails, corporate bulletins, face to face meetings, trainings, lunch and learns, etc.
Assuming that the above classic avenues listed above are already established, I would not recommend bringing social media into an organization adding even more complexity to the change you are trying to enact. Social media tools can be complicated for some to both learn and use. It is not worth the risk of bringing in this new avenue just to be cutting edge or faster with the dissemination of information, as other forms of communication will already be more established and better respected. In addition, any company should create a corporate social media policy before engaging. Sadly, this part of the project may take more time than you have for your entire change management initiative.
With this said, social media is something that cannot be ignored and does not seem to be going away. To turn your back on the power of social media would be wrong, instead it is important to embrace it and use it to effectively control and support your message where appropriate. If a company has already embraced social media in some form, it is a tool within the organization and should be used to communicate in addition to all the other more traditional channels that are available.
2. If social media is the right tool, how can you effectively use it as part of a Change Management program?
In order to effectively use social media within your communication and change management strategies, it is important to understand both the positive and negative elements of the tool. Social media allows for access to an incredible about of information. It can prove immediate access to information, allowing employees to get answers to questions in real time and on their schedule. This information is often searchable, via hashtags or other options, making it easier to sort through. In addition, it has the ability to increase the spread of communication and the depth of penetration across the organization. The ability to engage a larger audience, with more connections in a shorter or more frequent timeline can also help to increase understanding and retention of information. Finally, it offers an opportunity for establishing effective two-way communication and feedback channels. The ability for employees to share information with each other, as well as the larger project, can engage feedback and informal support on both a manager-to-direct report and peer-to-peer basis.
While there are many positive aspects to engaging social media, there are also drawbacks and needs the team must be aware of and address if they are to use the tools successfully. With direct access to so much information, users often can have trouble separating the important information from the noise and defining the correct answers to their questions when multiple opinions are presented. In many companies, a newsfeed may only hold information for 10-15 minutes before it is replaced by new content that may be unrelated or unimportant to others. The idea of posting useless information often called a “corporate selfie”, is important to note as a platform is created where anyone can post information based on what they feel is important. To address this, the team must be aware of where they are posting, the lifespan of the post, and the amount of communication repetition necessary as you engage the use of other more permanent communication channels in addition to the social ones.
Next, it is important that any company using social media to communicate have a comprehensive policy to define appropriate behavior. The ability to exert some form of control over the medium is key to using it as a productive tool. By building accountability of each user in what they say and what is shared, a company can address issues with anonymity, abuse, and harassment. In addition, the change team must realize that while everyone has a voice as with other channels not everyone may use it. Social media often represents a biased sample of opinions, as it is only the people who have taken the time to post whose voice are heard. In addition, those opinions may be factually incorrect. Teams need to pay careful attention to avoid amplifying an incorrect message or providing a false sense of unanimity for or against any ideas in a discussion. In a recent decision, the National Labor Relations Board said that, “workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.” This means they can say share both the positive and the negative.
Finally, audience is key. Much social media is presented to a wide audience. The messaging for an entire company will look very different than the messaging for a specific team or key leaders. Your audience needs to be well defined before any messages are drafted and shared. Many social media platforms allow for the building of lists to address key groups, but as with any other list that may be opt-in, the team will need to make sure that it is actually reaching the audience it is intended for.
This is a trend that cannot be ignored. Gartner states that, “by 2016, 50 percent of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and that 30 percent of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today.”
There any many social media platforms available to organizations. In the appendix is a short list of some of the social media sites companies are using to communicate.
Social Media Tools For Organizations*:
- Yammer – Yammer is your company’s private social network that helps you and your teams stay on top of it all. Start conversations, collaborate on files, and organize around projects so you can go further—faster.
- BlogHub – com is an online directory and community where members from around the world gather here and exchange ideas.Users who run a blog site, can add their site to the blog directory, search the blogger directory for blog templates, blog skins, create blog or join in for a chat at the exciting online Blogger forum.
- Sharepoint – Organizations use SharePoint to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from almost any device. All you need is a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.
- Intranet – An intranet is a computer network that uses Internet Protocol technology to share information, operational systems, or computing services within an organization. This term is used in contrast to the extranet, a network between organizations, and instead refers to a network within an organization.
- Instant Messenger – Instant messaging (IM) is a type of online chat which offers real-time text transmission over the Internet. A LAN messenger operates in a similar way over a local area network. Short messages are typically transmitted bi-directionally between two parties when each user chooses to complete a thought and select “send”. Some IM applications can use push technology to provide real-time text, which transmits messages character by character, as they are composed. More advanced instant messaging can add file transfer, clickable hyperlinks, Voice over IP, or video chat.
- Chatter (salesforce.com) – Salesforce Chatter is the world’s #1 enterprise social network. This powerful collaboration software solution empowers employees to connect, collaborate, share files, data, and expertise, all in real-time. Chatter will help drive productivity and increase efficiency and innovation across departments. From sales to marketing, to management, your entire company can use Chatter to tear down communication barriers and help your company grow and succeed as a team.
- IBM Connections – IBM® Connections 5 is a leading social network platform that helps you get work done. Connections 5 allows your organization to engage the right people, accelerate innovation and deliver results. Now you can confidently share knowledge beyond traditional organizational boundaries. Improve decision-making. Increase productivity. Accelerate time to market.
- Jive – Jive is the leading provider of modern communication and collaboration solutions for business. Their products apply powerful technology that helps employees, partners, and customers work better together. Inside companies, Jive-powered enterprise networks dramatically improve employee productivity, alignment, and innovation. Externally, Jive supports vibrant customer and partner communities that drive higher sales, better service, and greater satisfaction.
- Lync – Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Lync) and Microsoft Lyncfor Mac are instant messaging clients used with MicrosoftLyncServer or Lync Online available with Microsoft Office 365. They are replacements for Windows Messenger, which was used with Microsoft Exchange Server.
- Newsgator – Originally developed consumer RSS software that allowed users to receive notifications when a blog, news site or another page was updated. It was one of few readers that integrated directly withMicrosoft Outlook
- Snapcomms – SnapComms helps organizations get employee attention by offering a range of integrated tools that bypass email helping them communicate more effectively with their employees. Their versatile software is used by communications, IT, HR, security, compliance and other business functions across multiple industries worldwide.
- Socialcast – Socialcast® by VMware® is the secure enterprise social networking platform that brings people, conversations, and projects together in a single place so employees can work better, find information faster, and get more done. Thousands of companies around the world use Socialcast as a modern way to connect and communicate with others. By organizing the day-to-day flow of work into a single location, accessible from anywhere, on any device, Socialcast allows employees to discover new people and ideas, work smarter, and focus on what is most important.
* All tool descriptions are directly from company websites and do not represent TayagnPoint usage or endorsement.
Great article on social media. Thank you for the insight and direction on this topic. Social media is definitely a tricky topic because users, who represent different layers of the organization, use social media so differently.