(Hat tip to Chris Lott for the photo)
Social media isn’t just about reaching your customers. Many larger companies are investing in internal social media to foster more effective collaboration, communication and sharing of information between employees. And small businesses can reap the benefits of being social too.
The dirty word
‘Social’ was once a dirty word in business, associated too frequently with slacking and low productivity, but times have changed.
Work is increasingly something you do, not somewhere you go, and more and more workers are working anytime, anywhere, even if the office is their main hub. Having a good internal social network is the foundation stone of this new way of working.
Proximity doesn’t mean closeness
Small businesses might be pioneers in using social media to engage customers but what about talking to each other?
A smaller office isn’t necessarily more social – proximity doesn’t always entail chumminess and effective collaboration. Indeed, the office can actively hinder productivity, with noisy co-workers being the biggest culprit.
While not a magic bullet, encouraging the use of social media internally can help engender a friendly office culture and improve productivity and collaboration.
The benefits of social
- Internal social media doesn’t have to be used strictly for business. Use it to share anecdotes, interests outside of work or simply what you did last weekend. Personal stuff doesn’t have to mean shirking. It helps to show that everyone in the office, even the CEO, is human. You might find shared interests or someone with a bizarre hobby – it can help spark real conversation and create a more friendly work environment. And you’re more likely to work well with those you like or relate to.
- With more and more employees on the move or working remotely, it can help to have a central corpus of information formed of wikis for individual projects and processes so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet. This means fewer repetitive question and answer sessions.
- Internal social media can act as a forum for suggesting improvements to internal business processes. It’s less formal than sending an email or going into someone’s office to pitch your idea.
- Use it to solve problems, fast. Rather than asking around the office for an answer to your question, pop it onto something like LinkedIn, Twitter or Yammer and you’ll quickly get answers flying back from your business network.
- Use it to praise colleagues who have done a particularly good job or have gone above and beyond. It’s a nice pat on the back for the person who’s done well and a subtle spur to others.
- Use it to quickly share knowledge and broadcast news rather than forwarding a raft of emails. It keeps everyone in the loop and helps foster collaboration.
Internal social media can add something to any business, whatever its size.
Making the virtual less remote
An internal social network really comes into its own, however, for virtual businesses.
While remote workers are free from the disruptions and distractions of the office, working remotely can feel lonely and disconnected.
Over at Turbine’s sister company, Articulate Marketing, we’ve just started using Yammer (full disclosure: Microsoft is a client of Articulate Marketing) and it seems to be working well.
It simulates the chit-chat of the physical office while also acting as a hub for the general goings-on and the behind-the-scenes aspect of the business that, even in an office, those outside management might not be privy to. It’s also proven great at keeping a record of what’s been completed each week and what people are up to. No more ‘what are you working on and when is it going to be finished?’ emails.
But, more than that, it’s helped us to get to know each other better and feel like a real team.
Social means business
Used in the right way, an internal social network is a powerful business tool. It helps you muster and manage your talent more intelligently, create a more friendly office or virtual environment, more effectively share knowledge and collaborate and it lets your employees feel like a real part of the business.