The Validity and Importance of Using Social Media to Communicate with Employees

Even with how useful social media is for both employee and client relations, many companies still discourage its use at work, for fear of its time-wasting potential. Companies who do so are missing out, since there is no faster way to ensure mass employee exposure to important company updates.

Facebook and Twitter, as well as company-specific intranets, can also be used to connect employees with one another. The relaxed nature of the social media environment helps to encourage communications of a more honest nature, allowing employees to get to know each other. This interconnectivity tends to make for a more cohesive workplace, thereby improving productivity.

On the other hand, let's face it, people do get caught up in surfing the 'Net for, shall we say, other than work-related endeavors. It’s important for companies to lay out specific guidelines for Internet use in the workplace.

Atlanta-based internal communications company Tribe Inc. does use a company intranet to encourage inter-office communication. However, Elizabeth Baskin, Tribe's president and CEO, admits that despite the fact that social media has been a fantastic tool for employee engagement, she knows that many companies still prohibit the use of social media at work. "Facebook, in particular, still completely freaks out most CEOs and C-level people," she said.

That being said, the plusses of permitting some use of social media at work outweigh the potential minuses. Baskin suggests setting up an intranet that allows a company to track overall usage but encourages communication.

An intranet is a medium where companies can be ensured that employees are interacting with one another without the distractions that generalized social media may bring. Everything from company news to tutorial podcasts may be used as part of a company’s intranet. A major strength of the intranet is that companies can tailor it to their own specific needs. And, similar to communicating over Facebook, there is a perceived transparency in intranet communications, which helps to make everyone feel more comfortable.

Coca-Cola has a well-documented history of using their employees’ input to fine-tune its intranet, tracking the most effective means of intranet use in their offices and plants. Wal-Mart also keeps a company-wide intranet, through which it distributes company news, procedures and policies to over 950,000 associates. Clearly, having company policies so widespread gives the company a competitive advantage in the market. Monitoring the intranet ensures that everyone is in the know and not wasting time on generalized social media.

Smaller companies can benefit from localized intranets, as well. Bennett Jones, a Canada-based law firm of just over 900 employees, was the 2010 Platinum winner of the Intranet Innovations Award. This award is given out by Australia-based information management company Step Two Design. The award was granted to Bennett Jones based on intranet features such as an improved precedent system, and a “find the children” system, which helps employees to locate legal documents using the parent precedents. In this way, a well-designed intranet can speed up company processes.

With how useful social media can potentially be for businesses of all shapes and sizes, there is no justification for letting the opportunity fall by the wayside. What used to be just a trend for only the tech-savvy has become the most valuable means of communication in the business world.

The usefulness of social media overshadows its potential downsides. Any company without internal social media communication is behind the times and is putting their productivity and employee morale and serious risk.

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