Social communications: Delivering winning internal communications programs with the social intranet
It's an exciting time for internal communications professionals. The convergence of demographic shifts within the workplace, a growing percentage of knowledge workers, and low-cost communication technology creates ideal conditions for communicators to add value to their business by adapting their knowledge and creativity to unleash the power of the social intranet.
In a webinar (now available) presented by Prescient Digital Media and leading global internal communications agency Insidedge, Dave Duschene, Executive Vice President with Insidedge, laid out a common scenario for internal communications professionals. They feel it's time “to go 2.0” because people seem to dig their intranet, the CEO is hip to it and is on Facebook, and employees are already building their own wikis and team sites. Plus, everybody else is doing and they've got a lot to say.
What's your plan?
“That's all good, but keep this in mind,” Dave cautioned. “While technology offers new ways to share information, it doesn't increase the capacity to receive information so you should proceed with caution and a plan.” There are a number of reasons driving the need for caution, not the least being the risk of piling information on employees and taxing their already diminished time and attention spans.
For communicators, the plan should start with an understanding that digital technology does not change the road along which they will travel, but it may entail new rules of the road. Dave has developed the following table as a guide:
Communicators should also remember that high tech should not replace high touch, suggests Dave, and encourages them to understand that:
- New channels and technologies can allow for more tailored, two-way discussions with employees
- You shouldn't just repurpose offline materials
- Integration works: digital channels are most effective in concert with offline media and in-person interaction
- You shouldn't let automation replace interaction.
The plan should then continue with an assessment of whether or not to move ahead with 2.0. To help with this decision, Dave suggests considering the following:
- Are my employees online at work? To what degree?
- Who are my employees: young, aging, blue or white collar, retirees, new hires, families?
- Am I reaching all my audiences?
- How many languages do my employees speak?
- What will my employees need to do with all the information I provide them?
- Have I asked my people what they want?
- What is my budget?
- What are my existing resources?
- What's the appetite for change?
Understand the social intranet
If you are ready for 2.0, and preliminary results from Prescient's 2010 Intranet 2.0 Global Survey suggest many companies are, that means you will be working with the social intranet. Even if you've not come across the term before, you are probably familiar with the concept of the “social intranet.” As defined by Toby Ward, President of Prescient Digital Media on his Intranetblog, it is:
An intranet that features multiple social media tools for most or all employees to use as collaboration vehicles for sharing knowledge with other employees. A social intranet may feature blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, or a combination of these or any other Web 2.0 (intranet 2.0) tool with at least some or limited exposure (optional) from the main intranet or portal home page.
In other words, the social intranet is based on social technology that millions of us use every day, enabling an often neglected resource to address business challenges common across all sectors, including knowledge worker productivity, collaborating across silos, recruitment and retention of talent.
The increasing familiarity of the tools described by Toby is essential for driving adoption of the social intranet. As the following numbers demonstrate, the spectacular growth of social media stems from the intuitive usability of the tools and their ability to enable us to interact with one another naturally. When combined with seismic demographic shifts and a compelling cost-benefit equation, "social intranet" is a term you can expect to hear in boardrooms across the world.
Explosive growth in scalable, intuitive technology
Throughout 2009, according to comScore, Social Networking continued to gain momentum with 21.5 million unique visitors in Q4, up 5% from Q1. With a reach of 88%, the category accounts for 2 out of every 5 visits over the Internet in Canada. The category now accounts for 15 percent of all time spent online and 19 percent of all pages viewed in Canada, making it one of the most engaging activities across the Web. In addition,
- 75% of Americans use social technology (Forrester)
- 66% of the global intranet population visits social networks (Nielsen)
- 1,382% monthly growth rate of Twitter users from January to February, 2009
- 5 billion minutes spend on Facebook every day.
With social media now an integral part of our day-to-day personal lives, we will expect it to play a role in our professions.
The Next Generation is in your building
According to Neilsen, 93% of social media users believe a company should have a social media presence, and that includes within your firewall. Millions of people are spending billions of hours on social networking sites because they want to share the OMG cat meme with their friends. But they are also doing so because it enables efficient, productive collaboration with communities around the globe. The Economist reported that Facebook has one engineer for every 1.1 million users, enabling the company to scale extremely rapidly to manage the explosive growth of its platform. And have you ever heard of a suggestion that Facebook needs a help desk?
The intuitive performance of social media technology creates the expectation that companies will make it available to employees. As one client heard from a new hire, “I have better technology in my living room than you're giving me here.”
Demographics are an obvious driver for the social intranet, given that a generation that has grown up with digital technology is now on most company payrolls. One Canadian financial institution, for example, has seen Generation Y grow from 10% to 34% of its workforce in six years. At that growth rate, Generation Y will account for over 50% of its workforce in 2012.
How does that affect the workplace? Research suggests that young people may perceive inadequate technology as an indicator of an organizational culture that does not offer them interesting opportunities. Consider a study conducted by IT services firm Telindus, which found that:
- 39 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds would consider leaving if they were not allowed to access applications like Facebook and YouTube.
- A further 21 per cent indicated that they would feel 'annoyed' by such a ban.
- The problem is less acute with 25 to 65 year-olds, of whom just 16 per cent would consider leaving and 13 per cent would be annoyed.
But don't expect these concerns to only come from young people. The stats are in, and essentially every demographic within your organization is participating in social media.
To learn more about how to develop a plan for an effective social communications strategy based on the social intranet, check out Prescient's Social Intranet Success whitepaper.
Combined with the planning framework provided by Dave, and the compelling numbers that demonstrate why the social intranet is concept rapidly gaining in prominence, the matrix will assist communications professionals to harness the power of the new technology to enhance their contribution to their organization's performance.
Sign up for the accompanying webinar The Emergence of the Social Intranet
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The Social Intranet
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