Social media as an internal communications tool may sound a bit like an oxymoron but it can actually be just as effective as a corporate intranet or other internally-focused platforms.
Social media is not the place to share trade secrets, sensitive employee data or other confidential internal information but it is the ideal platform to promote employee engagement, share company news and build a sense of community within your organization.
My company, Magna International, initially didn’t intend to incorporate social media into our internal communications strategy.
As background, Magna is a global mobility technology supplier with more than 400 locations around the world. If you own an automobile, chances are your vehicle has a number of Magna technologies in it – from seats to exterior hoods to mirrors to powertrain to the rearview camera systems, just to name a few.
Due to the number of locations and the wide variety of technologies, Magna is very decentralized which makes it quite difficult to communicate with our global workforce.
The majority of our employees work in a manufacturing environment and do not have intranet or email access, so social media has revealed itself to be an easy way to share information about the company with this employee audience.
One of our first indications that social media could be an internal communications tool came somewhat accidentally three years ago during Earth Day.
We shared a post on Facebook showing how one of our Brazil locations retrofitted its facility with LED light bulbs and as a result saw significant energy savings.
A couple months later, our Brazil Marketing lead at the time visited our Corporate US office in Michigan and told me that another one of our Brazil locations saw the post and inquired about how they could also use LEDs to save money.
This was the type of story we assumed normally would have been communicated internally but realized employees around the world follow us on social media and could learn just as much about the company on there.
Discovering social media as an internal comms tool by accident isn’t as groundbreaking as other accidental discoveries like penicillin or chocolate chip cookies but it does help guide your strategy.
Instead of sharing stories such as in-depth product analyses or standard press releases, we try to share stories employees find relevant: community service activities, work milestones, teambuilding events, and holiday celebrations, to list a few.
Our engagement metrics provide statistical evidence these stories are popular and the amount of different locations around the world that reach out to us asking to have their employee event photos shared on social media also shows we are sharing relevant content.
Over time, our social strategy has evolved from simply sharing employee event stories to creating employee-focused campaigns.
One of our recent successful campaigns was a “60s on 6” campaign we did to commemorate Magna’s 60th anniversary. The campaign’s premise was quite simple: on the 6th of each month, we shared a fun fact about the company’s history.
A simple premise, combined with a catchy title that we borrowed from the XM radio station of the same name, helped deliver some of our most popular posts of the year.
This campaign was also carried out internally on our intranet and digital signage screens but social was the primary platform for this campaign and our employees loved it.
Integrating social media into internal communications is not always easy and to be honest, we are still exploring ideas to improve the way we engage employees on social media.
Many employees get nervous at having their photos from company events shared on social media (a challenge that will become increasingly more difficult now that the GDPR is in effect) and are hesitant to follow Magna’s social media pages because they want to keep their personal social media pages separate from the company.
Both of these concerns are valid and the best way we’ve found to alleviate these concerns is through education.
We’ve had employees who do not want photos of themselves at a company barbeque on social media, for example, because it may look like they are not working hard, but if we show them other companies that post similar photos, it makes them more comfortable.
Additionally, some manufacturing plants have been hesitant to share photos of employee celebrations because they are afraid some celebrations may come off as workplace safety violations to viewers unfamiliar with their facility, but if we show them other manufacturing companies that have shared similar photos and word the posts in a way to suggest the celebrations were held in a safe manner, this makes them more comfortable.
Employee acceptance is sometimes a slow process but education makes a huge difference.
And that’s really the biggest piece of advice I can offer another company looking to incorporate social into internal communications: be patient. Internal communications is difficult enough and incorporating another platform such as social media can make things even more difficult.
However, if you are patient and set reasonable, obtainable goals you can find success.
I’ve had many employees ask to share event photos on our company social media pages and they expect their photos to go viral.
I kindly remind them that unless they are friends with Justin Bieber and he can share them or their photos involve cat memes, going viral is an unlikely outcome.
Instead, focus on reasonable metrics based on your follower base and listen to employee feedback.
Even small results represent a step in the right direction.