The rise and rise of social media over the last 15 years or so – in terms of popularity, importance, and scope of use – is impossible to overstate. Meta’s Facebook currently has something in the range of 2.8 billion active users, whilst its Insta platform has over a billion. Google’s YouTube has well over 2 billion logged-in users. If Twitter is on a downward trajectory (ooops, Elon!), then Meta’s just-launched Threads is in a decent place to pick up some of that new slack, with over 100 million signing up in its first few days last week.
Just think of some of the words, terms, and phrases that have entered our language simply because of social media: would we talk about hashtags, influencers, trending, trolling, memes, or selfies if it wasn’t for social media?
The point is, the numbers are huge, and the reach and influence of these platforms is vast.
The way they are used has evolved, too. The widespread adoption of smartphones has led to a seismic shift in social media usage patterns. Most people now access social media platforms through their mobile devices, rather than via desktop computers, resulting in a more seamless and on-the-go social media experience. This means more and more people are using their social platforms as a source of news and information, rather than just to see what their mates got up to at the weekend. (Not that we are endorsing or encouraging the use of social media platforms as a primary source of news, views, or current affairs, you understand!)
And so, it was inevitable that a version of these real-time interactive platforms would find their way into our work lives. A good internal comms strategy will usually include a social media offering. The advantages and benefits they offer are clear to see:
Enhanced collaboration: Social media platforms can provide a collaborative space where employees can connect, share ideas, and work together on projects, regardless of their geographical location. They offer features like real-time messaging, file sharing, and group discussions, assisting teamwork and improving overall productivity.
Quick and efficient communication: all platforms facilitate instant communication, eliminating the delays associated with traditional methods such as email or in-person meetings. Employers can offer live and real-time news and updates, and employees can send messages, ask questions, and get immediate responses.
Increased employee engagement: the platforms can help boost employee engagement by creating a sense of community, belonging, and involvement. Employees can share their achievements and participate in discussions, fostering a positive work culture and a stronger connection to the organisation.
Social media platforms also make sharing video content easy, and whilst video may not have actually killed the radio star, it is certainly leading the charge when it comes to effective and engaging communication.
Knowledge sharing and learning opportunities: Social media platforms can offer a vast pool of knowledge and resources. Employees can share articles, industry insights, and best practices, promoting continuous learning and professional development.
Ease of recognition and appreciation: we are huge advocates for workplace recognition and appreciation at Guru HQ (we even have our own platform for peer-to-peer recognition), so we love that most social media platforms give their users a place to shout about their colleagues and thank them for their support, assistance, or just plain brilliance. Do more of this!
Employee advocacy: Social media platforms provide an avenue for employees to act as brand ambassadors. They can, if they wish, share company news, success stories, and job openings on their personal profiles, expanding the organisation's reach and promoting a positive image to their networks.
Feedback and employee voice: Social media platforms enable employees to provide feedback, suggestions, and voice their opinions openly. This feedback can be valuable for improving processes, products, and services. It can also demonstrate that the organisation values and listens to its employees' views, perspectives, and suggestions.
Mobile accessibility: Most social media platforms have mobile applications, allowing employees to stay connected and engaged even when they are away from their desks. This accessibility is especially beneficial for remote or field-based workers, or employees who are frequently on the go.
However, as ever, there are also some potential disadvantages or risks that employers might wish to consider:
Information security and privacy risks: Social media platforms can pose security risks if sensitive or confidential information is shared inadvertently or falls into the wrong hands. Organisations should always establish clear guidelines and protocols to protect data and ensure that employees understand and follow them.
Distractions and time management: These platforms are designed to be engaging, which can lead to distractions and reduced productivity. Employees may spend excessive time on non-work-related activities, affecting their focus and efficiency. Again, it is a good idea to establish guidelines regarding appropriate use and time allocation on these platforms.
Potential for miscommunication and misinterpretation: Written communication on social media platforms tend to be shorter and snappier than the more traditional or formal methods of internal comms, and so can sometimes lack clarity or context, leading to misinterpretation or misunderstandings. Organisations should encourage clear and concise communication and provide guidelines for proper etiquette and tone of voice.
Information overload: Social media platforms often have a high volume of information and updates. Employees may find it challenging (and too exhausting to bother) to filter through the noise and identify relevant and important information. Businesses should provide guidance on what information is critical and ensure their comms strategy details other channels to host important messages in addition.
Dependency on technology: Relying heavily on social media platforms for employee communication means being dependent on technology. Technical issues, such as platform outages or connectivity problems, can disrupt communication and hinder productivity. Organisations should have backup communication channels in place to address such situations. There will also always be those employees who don’t have a smartphone or who, quite justifiably, refuse to have a social media app, or an app intended for work use, on their personal devices. These employees should not miss out on key comms because of these views.
Potential for negative online behaviour: Sadly, social media platforms can be susceptible to negative online behaviour, such as cyberbullying or harassment. In an employee communication context, this can harm the work environment and negatively impact employee morale and well-being. Organisations need to establish clear guidelines and policies to prevent and take swift action on such behaviour.
Work-life balance concerns: The use of social media platforms within employee communications can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. Employees may feel pressured to be constantly connected or may find it challenging to disconnect from work-related discussions outside of regular working hours. It is important to establish expectations and boundaries to ensure a healthy work-life balance.
There are several social media platforms commonly used within workplace communications. As none of them are paying us handsomely to recommend them over their competitors (I’m not typing this from a poolside laptop somewhere in the Bahamas), we make no such recommendations here. We’ll just list five of the key players and some of their recognised features.
Microsoft Teams: a collaboration platform that offers instant messaging, video conferencing, document sharing, and project management. Of course, it integrates well with other Microsoft products and is particularly popular among organisations that use Office 365.
Slack: a team communication platform that provides channels for real-time messaging and collaboration, file sharing, integration with various tools and services, and some customisable notifications.
Workplace by Facebook: quite literally Facebook for work - it provides features such as news feeds, group discussions, file sharing, and video calls.
Yammer: an enterprise social networking platform owned by Microsoft. It allows employees to create groups, share updates, collaborate on projects, and engage in discussions.
Jive: Not to be confused with the knee-lifting, hip-rocking dance of yesteryear, Jive is described as an enterprise collaboration platform that enables employees to connect, communicate, and collaborate. It also provides a customisable platform to meet specific organisational needs.
Which one (of these or the others currently available) is right for you depends on your business. If you’re thinking of rolling one out, we advise looking at all in some detail and weighing up the features, benefits, pros and cons of all against the needs of your workforce.
Or give us a shout and we’ll do some of that heavy lifting for you!