Hello again, pardon the shivering as I try to warm up from a balmy -34 Celsius. Just a little update on the state of the world from here in Edmonton: yes it is that cold, the Oilers are bombing again with a 4 game losing streak and finally, I am looking at the twilight of my post-secondary career as I look upon finals week.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about how to use the Groundswell to build and grow your company’s online presence and in turn connect further than ever before with your customer base. With the knowledge, you have attained by reading my previous blogs, I feel it is time to delve further into how your business can use social media technologies to your advantage.
In my previous blogs, I focused solely on connecting with customers and the world outside of your company. Socializing with the outside world is important for a business to grow and mature; from a marketing standpoint, but if you are just using these technologies for marketing externally you are missing a great deal of potential. This potential can be found within your company. No, I’m not crazy, I really want you to explore the idea of using this knowledge to nurture and grow your company’s internal groundswell.
“Throughout corporations around the world, employees are connecting through internal networks, collaborating on wiki’s, contributing to ideas exchanges” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 234). These companies have empowered their employees to use these technologies to smooth internal business processes and ensure that the company reacts faster to outside change. Remember, your employees know your business’s internal processes better than anyone else, and whom better to yield the incredible power of the groundswell than them.
To get you and your company started on this internal transformation through social media technologies, I am first going to go through three examples of the groundswell that are best suited for internal use. They are internal communities, wiki’s, and idea exchanges.
Internal communities are exactly what they sound like. They are an internal forum of sorts, hosting a way for employees to voice concerns, communicate with their common kin, for management to share ideas and as a way for problems to be solved, all within an internal setting. Management must be prepared to listen to their employees concerns and respond accordingly to their thoughts.
For a look into a very successfully internal community look no further than Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation. While it has been discontinued for some time, the BSN represents the pinnacle of internal communities in a business type setting.
Wiki’s are one of the best ways to foster collaboration and share information within an organization. Anyone can write and entry and edit or add content to an existing entry. These edits are generally logged to protect information from being deleted. Wiki’s are great in the sense that any employee can be empowered to add their own personal expertise to a topic and have that knowledge available to other employees within the organization. Everything from business processes, product designs/specs, manuals, how-to guides and legacy product information can be added to your own internalized wiki. By giving employees a digital encyclopedia to your business that can be accessed at their fingertips not only saves time and resources, but also allows knowledge to be harboured almost forever within your organization.
If you want to see a corporate wiki done right, have a look at Intel’s Intelpedia and the story behind this powerful wiki that is used by Intel’s employees.
Idea exchanges are a way to foster collaborated efforts in order to drive innovation. Think of an idea exchange as a way for employees to share their thoughts and ideas to improve business functions within the organization. Ideas are shared to users, who can comment on the idea and potentially rank them. Managers can gain new insights as to how to improve functionality from the idea’s that are submitted through the community.
One of the more prominent idea exchanges in Canadian business was the community that Bell had setup, under the name ID-Ah!. This platform allowed employees to share ideas and rank these ideas. Once ranked management would go through them and potentially develop projects out of these ideas.
With these three internal social media examples, fresh in your mind, I am now going to go through some strategies that you can use to foster the creation and growth of your company’s own internal groundswell.
Educate Users: Ensure that the potential users are educated on how to use what ever chosen social media technology you go with, and also the overall benefits of the technology. Also ensure that people know the site exists.
Make Sure That it can be Easily Accessed by the People You Expect to Use It: If the site is hidden behind a million login screens or on some obscure corporate web page people are not going to bother with it. Make it easily accessible.
Have Management Participate and Listen: This should go without saying. Encourage senior management to create or change your organization’s culture to be based on listening. Employees want to be heard and will not participate in corporate programs if it appears that management is not listening or even participating in such programs.
Encourage the Rebels: Find the people who can and have been petitioning to make change happen, and just let them make it happen. Don’t worry about costs, but think of the opportunity costs associated with leaving your potential enthusiast level employees without a voice to be heard. “[You] need to be ready to fail often, fail quickly, and most importantly fail cheaply” when your company decides to setup such platforms for employee internal communication (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 247). Remember to set some ground rules for such rebels, to limit your business’s costs in regards to resources used to setup these technologies.
Internalizing social media technologies can be a powerful business tool to improve corporate communications and culture throughout an organization. Empower your employees through internal communities, wiki’s and idea exchanges as a way to improve your business’s internal processes.
If this reading still hasn’t clicked yet, feel free to watch Microsoft’s 1 Min pitch on the internal social network.
Thank you for reading these blogs on the world of social media, aka the groundswell. It has been a pleasure to share my knowledge with you over these past few weeks and I hope I have empowered you to use the groundswell to better your company’s performance in the social media age.
Goodbye for now…
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.