Tag Archives: digital focus

Using social networks to engage employees – CIPR Digital Focus Conference #ciprdigital

7 Dec

On Monday 7th December 09, I ran a workshop at CIPR’s Digital Focus conference. The conference was set up to look at the current digital landscape and the channels available to communicators. It was aimed at anyone responsible for developing and implementing comms plans, wanting to gain a working knowledge of social media.

My workshop was on how to use social networks to engage employees. I was delighted to be approached to run the workshop, as this is a subject area I’m very passionate about. I would normally talk about all social media tools and techniques – but, given this was just a 50 minute workshop, I focused purely on social networks.

Great, I thought. I’ll use the benefit of my own experience and knowledge and combine that with some great case studies. Easier said than done! Although I knew of many excellent examples, I found it very very tough to actually find tangible examples and case studies readily available on the internet. This is very unusual, as typically, the internet is rife with fantastic PR, blogs, news articles and videos on companies that have experienced levels of success with social media.

Sadly, not in the case of using social networks. So, I decided to turn to my own social networks on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube to ask for help in finding some good data. As usual, my social contacts didn’t let me down, and I was soon pointed in the right direction of those few tangible and credible examples I could use.

Here’s an overview of what I talked about. I’ve included my slide deck and a quick videoboo at the end too.

Some thoughts on social media…

Brilliantly, earlier that day, James Poulter, from Ogilvy, had shown the Socialnomics video – Social Media Revolution. It’s a video I like to use in most of my presentations to remind people of the incredible speed and impact social media has had over the past few years. So, there was no need to show it again, but rather just highlight some key stats from the video:

  • Years to reach 50 million – radio 38 years, TV 13 years, internet 4 years, iPod 3 years
  • Facebook 100 million in less than 9 months
  • 1 billion iPod downloads in less than 9 months
  • 96% Gen Y have joined a social network
  • 80% of twitter usage is on mobiles – people can update anywhere, anytime
  • Gen Y and Z consider email passé
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations – only 14% ads
Social media isn’t a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.
Now, although this video talks about consumers, you can equally apply it to employees. So when looking to our younger generation of employees – combined with early/current adopters of social communication, we need to be careful not to ignore that this is becoming the preferred way for people to communicate and collaborate. And, it’s changing by the day with uptake of social approaches increasing rapidly.
A couple of great external examples…
Before looking at internal opportunities, I always feel it’s worth pointing to some great external case studies with methods that could be applied internally.

For example, Obama’s election campaign focused heavily around engaging and galvanising support through the use of social media. He has c7m Facebook fans and more than 2.5 Twitter followers, as well as a huge presence on numerous other social networking sites such as Bebo, mySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and more. In the lead up to his election, 3m people donated c$5m – 92% of those donations in increments of less than $100.

So, by the time he arrived at the White House, he’d gained millions of names of supporters who could be engaged almost instantly through his political social media campaign. By engaging with his supporters, he was able to create that all important sense of connection – “he’s talking to me, he’s in my network and he’s someone I feel I know”. He provided a chance to challenge, question and connect, and by acknowledging the discussions, he made it feel like everything had been taken on board.
Now, imagine what learnings you can take from this and apply to your CEO or the like. Far too frequently, there’s a huge distance between senior management and the front line. With your senior team socially communicating, you’re more likely to bridge that gap, resulting in your leaders becoming far more accessible, far more human and seen as one of the team.
myStarbucks idea is another great external example. They’ve basically created a site for consumers to share, vote and discuss ideas on what they want from Starbucks – after all, it’s their customers that “know better than anyone else”.
They’re extremely open and show all ideas, what people are voting on and discussing, and even the status of those ideas they’ve decided to progress. In fact they measure the success of the scheme on the number of ideas they convert in to action and not the normal click counting used by many others.
Again, imagine what you could do with this type of scheme in the workplace.
Whether it’s ideas about product innovation or the creation of a new HR policy – the ideas are endless, and what better way to engage your employees by getting them so heavily involved in the process?
A couple of great internal case studies...
With over 15,000 McDonald’s locations across the US and Canada, they asked of their employees, “how can we connect all of you with one another?”.
They built something for employees to:
  • Connect
  • Participate
  • Give feedback from the frontline
  • Showcase new products
  • Explore McDonald’s brand values
  • Celebrate success
  • Build a community online with each other.
McDonald’s say “stationM is giving you a voice… connecting crew… creating a community… 100% pure fun”. They say it’s all about the relationships you build with your key audiences, all about cultivating those relationships so that you enable them to become brand ambassadors and spread the word.
McDonald’s senior director of communications, Ben Stringfellow says of stationM:
“It provides us the opportunity to get information to the people who are interacting with our customers day to day. And [it] provides us with a channel back to hear what’s on the minds of our crew people, what they’re excited about  and what questions they have. We can use that information to better handle our future communications.”. He goes on to say: “Internal blogging is a great way for employees to feel connected, not just to one another, but also to top management and ultimately the brand itself. It is a positive way for a company to build credibility among its employees by acknowledging and addressing what is happening at any given moment within the corporate community.”.
Exactly what you want to do in your organisation right?
There’s a great video clip that gives you a good snapshot of what they’ve implemented – sadly, it’s not available for download or on YouTube otherwise I’d have embedded it in this blog.
In 2008, O2 launched their new brand promise “we’re better connected”. Being a company focused on living the brand internally, they asked “how can we lead the way with innovative approaches that would help O2 people connect?”. They wanted an online community where they could collaborate, share and learn from each other.
This is where mingle came in. With creative development between the Engage Group and O2 employees, mingle is an internal social network just for O2 employees. For them, mingle adds real business value through collaborative group working, cross-directorate networking, as well as blogs, videos, images and more. The user-centred approach involved O2 people through creative workshops, so employee engagement and ownership levels reached unprecedented levels.
Former O2 head of internal comms, James Allen said: “In a social climate rapidly adapting for Generation Y employees, mingle has already shown massive potential in affecting O2’s talent management, employee engagement and organisational effectiveness.”
He goes on to say: “With a diverse audience spread across many locations in the UK, effective and innovative channels like mingle play a key role in our communication strategy at O2… putting audiences first and designing concepts, messaging and delivery methods around our specific needs were integral to making our new channels a success.”.
What are the engagement benefits of using social networks?
Well, the list to answer this question could go on and on – there are so many. But here’s a round up of what I think are the most significant:
  • It helps to align and galvanise the workforce behind common goals and objectives
  • It leads the way in becoming a true listening organisation – with opportunity to openly discuss and converse on anything and everything
  • It creates true two-way and multi-way conversations
  • Everyone can connect – remote and dispersed workers can connect with people they’d never normally meet
  • Those precious water-cooler / cigarette break moment are no longer confined to a single office
  • It provides opportunities to share ideas and best practices wherever, whenever
  • And, it’s a fantastic way of building relationship – with anyone – on both a professional and personal level
  • It’s non-hierarchical, allowing communication to flow from the top down, bottom up and side to side
  • Leaders become more accessible and authentic – they become human beings
Can we ignore it?
Well, in my view… no we can’t. People are doing it anyway – they’re using these tools and techniques at home, and with the increase in people using smartphones, they can communicate online anytime, anywhere.
Younger employees expect social media – Gen Y are so used to two-way communication they assume this is how things are done. And, with 96% already having joined a social network, wouldn’t it be odd not to use this method in the workplace?
Remember that stat about 78% of consumers trusting peer recommendations versus only 14% trusting ads? Just apply that to your employees – aren’t they more likely to trust what they hear and talk about in an open workspace rather than a top-down broadcast of information?
Implementing it...
Every organisation is different and it’s vital that your approach is seamlessly aligned to your company strategy, brand values and corporate culture – there’s no one-size-fits all approach here.
Once you’ve outlined and aligned your social goals, make sure to integrate into your existing strategy. Remember that these are just new channels and not a whole new communications strategy – it should be seen more as an evolution of your strategy.
Many leaders struggle to understand the power and benefits of social media in the workplace. So, make sure to produce a strong business case to help your leadership team fully buy-in to your strategy and lead by example.
And fully embracing social tools and techniques is the best way for your leadership and comms teams to lead by example and get social with employees. Engaging and involving your people at every opportunity is vital to ensure the success of any social media initiative.
Social networking tools
There are so many social networking tools available – and, with no one-size-fits all solution, it’s best to hunt around to see what best suits your organisation type and culture.
But do remember, many of these sites are free and already have a wealth of applications to use to suit your needs. Some of the most popular include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yammer and Ning – all offer solutions for free and most are customisable to your own needs. Other tools are being launched every day, the latest major offering, Chatter, comes from Salesforce (see a previous blog on this).
I will be writing separate blogs for each one of these tools as each one deserves a deep dive in to how they can help employees communicate and collaborate.
So, in a nutshell…
Social networking is a fantastic engagement tool providing endless and enhanced opportunities to connect, communicate, collaborate and innovate.
People are already doing it and younger employees expect it.
Getting social is a natural and essential evolution of how you communicate with your people.
It’s not a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in how we communicate.

I’d like to thank everyone who attended my workshop for their interest and questions. Never hesitate to contact me if you want more information or if you’d simply like to chat about some ideas you have.

And finally, here’s a quick videoboo I shot just after the conference. With my lack of success in finding good examples on the internet, I’ve decided to gather a load of information myself – I’ll obviously be sharing this with you over the coming weeks and months.


CIPR Digital Focus conference – using social networks to engage employees

6 Dec

I’m doing a workshop tomorrow at CIPR’s Digital Focus conference and thought I’d do a quick audioboo on it. I’ll tweet and blog through the day (follow #ciprdigital on twitter) and I’ll blog later in the week and will include my thoughts and slides.

I hope you can join me in one way or another. Thanks