Integrating social media into internal communications

Comms campaign check list

How not to do it!

Having been part of a social media panel at this week’s Melcrum Strategic Communication Management Summit, I was moved to write this post about how to integrate social channels into an internal comms campaign. 

As a recipient of internal comms stuff, it can sometimes feel like internal comms has become a check-list activity … someone from the business comes up to you and says: “I need to communicate something” … and you launch off on auto-pilot with a menu of channel offerings. And, when new channels come along, they get added to the bottom of the list to amplify the noise. I get the feeling that social media is often just being added to the bottom of the list.

So, for what it’s worth, here are some thoughts on the subject. Social media should never be handled as a standalone item or activity … this is true if you’re writing comms strategy, preparing a business case, writing a comms plan or trying to justify ROI. The power of social media is in its integration with other stuff … as a standalone activity, it has limited value as a comms enabler.

The way to integrate social channels into an internal comms campaign effectively is to do the following:
  1. Define very clearly what your desired business outcomes are. As an aside, I don’t think that either pride or awareness are valid business outcomes! There is nothing inherently useful in a business context in feeling proud or in knowing something … it’s what people DO as a result of that feeling or with that knowledge which should be your desired outcome. All too often we don’t press the business to say exactly what they want to be different as a result of an act of communication … if we don’t know this, how can we decide if we should do it at all, or what channels to use to do it effectively?
  2. Once you’ve agreed a set of tangible outcomes, you need to agree how you’re going to measure those outcomes to know if you’ve been successful.
  3. With this knowledge, you can then begin to define the activities which you need to undertake to deliver the outcomes … one or more of these activities may well be social media related in nature.
  4. You’ve then got enough information for normal comms planning to kick in …

In adopting this approach, you not only create a context for social channels and social content, but you also create a mechanism for measuring their value – as part of a group of comms activities, rather than on their own. By positioning social channels alongside the more traditional, and accepted, methods of communication, it also gives them gravitas in the business which often regards them as toys.

I apologise if this sounds like teaching grandma to suck eggs … but sometimes we could all do with a bit of egg sucking! 🙂

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  1. I agree with your post, Richard. The challenge for us internal communicators is to tell our stakeholders to stop the noise. My usual advice is to skip 90% of what they ask of me. We were educated to send information and reach target audiences. That doesn’t work for social media. How to integrate social media into the internal comms mix, and how to use these tools in such a way that they add value is one of the biggest challenges in our line of business.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jan. We have a mantra inside our organisation for the comms community which is: ‘fewer things better’.

    Social content inside organisations has got to be one of the most exciting things to happen to internal comms since it was invented … 🙂

  3. Nice post, Richard. Good list of tips to get started. Another good place to start is: Which communication processes could benefit most from social media (concepts). Try to socialize those processes and carry on from there.

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