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Afraid of using social media internally?

by Michael Marchionda - As the use of blogs, wikis and other social media tools increases in our personal lives, fears about bringing these social media tools (and the problems they potentially bring) to the workplace naturally arise. There’s good reason to fear social media (time wastage and reduced productivity are the major concerns), but statistics demonstrating the benefits of social media suggest that the benefits can out weigh the concerns, especially if a company implements a sound social media policy. A sound policy allows employees, and the company, to enjoy the benefits of social media; primarily, improving knowledge worker productivity, decreasing redundant effort, disseminating best practices and accelerating time to productivity.

Overcoming the fear-factor

Regular visitors of the popular news blog Mashable.com will tell you that everyone loves reading social media stories—both the good, and especially the bad (for a parody of the latter, see ‘How Facebook Can Ruin Your Relationship’).

Are stories like these perpetuating the cons of social media and overshadowing the pros? Perhaps. Here are some common critiques from people who have not yet realized the full benefits of social media and the respective rebuttals:

“It’s a fad”: according to TriNet CLO Gregg Hammond, it’s important to view social media as a new wave of technology—just like the telephone. Our growing dependence on social media suggests it’s here to stay. Forrester, an independent research company, estimated the enterprise Web 2.0 collaboration market will hit $1.8 billion by 2013.

“I have nothing to say”: Remember, there’s strength in numbers. Coastal Contacts, a Vancouver-based lens retailer, features a “speak up” wiki page that not only allows employees to anonymously “tell the company what’s broken” in the words of CEO Roger Hardy, but how to fix it. A wiki is just one social media tool that can help an organization achieve an 18% increase in employee engagement, according to a recent study conducted by Aberdeen Group.

“Nobody will listen”: Last month at a conference in San Francisco, the CEO of Comcast credited an employee’s use of Twitter with helping to steer the company’s corporate culture toward customer service. Frank Eliason, the tweeter, is now known in the organization as “Famous Frank”. Though the example is external, the message is clear: people will take note of your social media adoption, even if you’re just trying to make your job easier.

If it’s fear that’s delaying employees from using social media internally, implementing a policy and marketing it appropriately should sway those still on the fence.

Policies

The best way to combat the fear-factor of using social media in the workplace is to develop a policy that explicitly states your organization’s goal in implementing it as well as acceptable use. What is your organization trying to achieve by adopting social media? If your goal is more efficient collaboration, increased communication and higher employee engagement, and this goal is properly communicated to employees, then adoption of social media best practices will naturally follow. A good way to encourage social media use internally is to lead by example: an executive blog that encourages feedback, shows championship and leadership, and with the right tone can encourage similar behavior from employees reading it.

If you are writing your social media policy, you can find many examples to help you. Though many of the easily-accessible policies for social media in the workplace are external, some of their underlying messages are similar to those for internal policies. Sites like socialmediagovernance.com and laurelpapworth.com link to dozens of social media policies, providing a good means of comparison when considering which policies best suit your organization’s culture.

In some organizations, the obvious concern from a management perspective is control. According to Toronto-based blogger Dave Fleet, setting out clear guidelines for what employees can and cannot do protects your organization and empowers employees to use social media tools by removing doubt over what is “allowed” and what is not. This will help align messages being shared using social media with company values.

It is estimated that employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues, according to an Aberdeen Group study. Creating extensive digital networks, and in turn increasing productivity, is dependent on the widespread adoption of social media, which is fostered by a clear and concise policy that governs its use within an organization. Those who are reluctant to explore social media and ignore its positive impact on an organization’s productivity, collaboration and employee engagement will only be able to do so for so long.


Sources:

  1. Social Media Policies For Your Company: Internal Policies, by Dave Fleet,
  2. Leveraging Social Media, by Greg Hammond,
  3. Web 2.0 / Intranet 2.0 gaining traction, by Toby Ward,
  4. Social media going corporate, by Benny Evangelista
  5. Integrating social media into intranets, by Julian Mills


Related articles:

Web 2.0 / Intranet 2.0 gaining traction

Web 2.0 Becomes Mandatory


Related Event:

Social Media Readiness: Preparing for Intranet Success
November 24th, 2009, Toronto, Ontario 8:30 am and 3:30 pm

  


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