When companies adopt social media, the benefits they’re looking for usually concern sales and branding. They want new ways to reach their customers; interact with them; and ultimately drive them to a sale. It’s all very much about how they interact with the outside world.
What a surprise for many of them, then, to discover that social media can also be transformative internally.
This is unlikely to happen if they are merely dabbling in digital – updating accounts just once in a while, or shunting social media to one member of staff or department who work alone. But when social media is implemented a company priority, and becomes an essential part of the way the way the company operates, it is disruptive (in the positive sense).
How so? Let us count the ways…
It changes the way companies understand themselves
Launching a social media programme (properly) requires a company to do quite a bit of homework. It needs to gain a really solid picture of who its customers are, and what problems it can solve for them.
When this picture emerges, not only will it form the foundation of the social media programme, it can also really sharpen, or change, the way almost every other part of the company thinks of the product or service they provide, and what it means to their customers – from the CEO and members of the senior management team right down to sales, marketing, business development, the teams that design the products, and any customer-facing staff.
If they truly internalise this new information, it will change the way they do their job.
Of course, this is research that a well-run company will have done anyway. But the number who do not have well-defined answers to the basic question of “who do we serve and how”; or who do not have the right answers, is truly shocking, and social media can bring this to the fore.
It makes communications and marketing everyone’s business
Well, lots more people’s business anyway.
Many (if not most) of your staff members are on social media in a personal capacity. Lots of companies now encourage certain team members to use social in a professional capacity as well, perhaps through their LinkedIn profile or Twitter account. Often they will offer training and guidance, more commonly (and problematically) it simply becomes a requirement of the job.
But either way, this means that that many companies have lots of staff members with no connection to comms or marketing suddenly representing them online, sometimes on a daily basis. Thinking about how to do so effectively will become a regular part of their work routine, in a way that was simply unimaginable a decade ago, when marketing was the preserve of a select few.
They’ll have to focus far more closely than they’ve ever done on the real purpose of the company, its image, and most importantly – its customers. Many staff members may never have interacted in this way with members of the public or prospects before, nor been forced to pay such close attention to their interests and views. It will undoubtedly affect their outlook, and make the company as a whole far more sensitive to their customers’ needs.
It encourages collaboration
A good social media programme will rarely be restricted to one person or department.
Your comms team needs to understand what’s going on across the company, and get their input. Your customer service team might have a strong stake in your social media effort; perhaps you solicit blog posts from a variety of departments. Occasionally, representatives of the company who are at a conference or another interesting event will have to coordinate with the social media team, or even teams from other parts of the business at the same events.
Either way, social media forces staff from diverse parts of the business to work together in common cause. Working in a silo is one of the most commonly cited reasons why social media efforts fail.
It encourages conversation across the company
Whether they are representing your company online or not, most of your staff will probably follow your official account(s), and even interact with it. They’ll certainly follow their colleagues, and interact with them online. The digital sphere will become another forum on which they can talk to each other.
But of course, online conversation is not like the conversation that takes place in your office. On Twitter (for example), it’s so easy and natural to talk to your colleagues in another office, another city and even another continent. You can strike up conversation with colleagues from other departments you would normally never meet.
By fostering these conversations, social media helps forge a stronger company identity.
It gives staff insight into your company, and its leaders
Customers and potential customers are not the only ones who will use your social media feeds to stay informed about what’s going on in your company – staff will as well. But perhaps even more importantly, if your CEO or members of your senior management team are active on social media, your staff members will have unprecedented insight into their thoughts, interests and personalities (not to mention an unprecedented – in some companies – route to reach them).
Don’t underestimate the power of this, particularly in larger companies where not everyone interacts with or even really knows the senior team. When those at the top are accessible, open and honest, it can completely revolutionise the atmosphere in the company and positively impact employees’ motivation.
How has social media changed the internal culture in your company? Please share your stories in the comments!