4 tips on using Twitter for internal communication

UPS and Starbucks engage hard-to-reach employees, and Intel localizes messages for staffers in specific areas. Then there’s the question of going public or staying private…

It wasn’t long ago that internal communication was viewed as just that—internal. Some companies still see it that way. They want to “protect” the exchanges they have with employees.

But a lot of companies are waking up and realizing that most of their employee communication messages were never secure or private. That printed newsletter you produce? It can leave the facility. The internal email? Easily forwarded.

This isn’t a security conversation, though. The point is that for most internal communications that reach employees, it’s OK if the public (or, even better, customers) know about it. One of the best ways to engage employees with information is through Twitter.

Using Twitter as a digital internal communications tool is not going to be for every company. Your company can successfully use Twitter to engage employees on a local or global basis. Here are the ways a few well-known companies are doing just that:

1. Celebrate

Here’s what I love about UPS: It has been around since 1907, and it’s using Twitter (@UPSers) to celebrate company and employee successes. Employee recognition is pretty simple, actually:

  1. It’s best to recognize employees for exhibiting the right behavior and attitude (not just tenure).
  2. Employee recognition should also be easy and frequent.
  3. Recognition should align with company goals.
  4. Then share these stories.

This is exactly how UPS takes advantage of Twitter. Beyond that, think about UPS, its workforce, and global footprint. A vast majority of its employees are in distribution facilities or out on the roads delivering packages.

Employees can look at the feed at their leisure. UPS isn’t relying on Twitter to deliver crucial or vital employee communication messages, but @UPSers is reinforcing the corporate mission.

You’ll notice in the Twitter bio that the account isn’t only for UPS employees, but also for fans (including family members), so it’s a way for them to follow employee successes. In the feed, employees share information and pictures, which @UPSers is smartly retweeting.

2. Engage

Anybody active on Twitter is well aware of @Starbucks’ tweeting prowess and its more than 5 million followers. It’s one of the most popular brands on Twitter. What you might not know is that Starbucks also uses Twitter to engage its partners (retail store employees).

@Starbucksprtnrs launched in June 2012 and has sent out nearly 5,000 tweets. Like @UPSers, Starbucks celebrates employee successes. A slight difference here is that Starbucks speaks directly to its partners. Though the feed is public and anybody can see it, the messaging is targeted to employees.

Starbucks gives its partners special discounts this time of year, so a lot of tweets focus on that. The account also has done a smart thing by sharing how stores are decorating for the holidays. Without Twitter, there really isn’t an easy and frequent way to reach the retail partners.

Internal communications in retail is very tricky. You have a workforce without traditional “desktop” access to communications and typically deal with a higher turnover rate than other markets. I imagine other retailers will be jumping on this Twitter bandwagon.

3. Localize

The first two examples were representative of large global brands reaching out to an international workforce. Twitter has such reach. By contrast, here is how Intel takes advantage of Twitter for internal communications by targeting a local office.

The @gptw_intel account is run by human resources and is targeted to Intel employees located in Oregon. No company news is shared on the account. Twitter is a channel for them to promote volunteerism and distribute extra tickets to local events. For anyone who has worked at a large corporation, you know how often you’ll hear a “what do we do with these extra tickets” comment. Well, Intel is using Twitter to distribute them, and employees love it.

The feed shows that employees are attending concerts, sporting events, and movie premieres. Better yet, not only are the employees attending the events, but they are saying thank you and sharing pictures. If your company wants to dip its toe in the Twitter pool, this is a smart, easy way to start.

4. Going public or staying private

If you feel that Twitter is a viable internal communication vehicle for your organization, the next decision you’ll have to make is whether you want your account’s tweets to be public or protected (private). This is a simple security setting, but that’s where the simplicity ends.

With a public account, you can draw in more followers, and there’s no administrative burden in managing the account. You forfeit exclusivity, though.

With a protected account, you choose (accept) your followers; that’s both a privilege and a time-consuming responsibility.

I know of a few companies who use Twitter for internal communications within protected accounts. (To respect their privacy, I’ll refrain from mentioning their names and accounts.) They have chosen to stay private, at least at first, to make sure Twitter is where they want to invest their time.

Verifying whether a Twitter user is an employee could be tricky, but there are possible procedures (i.e., send a Tweet with your employee ID or make sure you have a clear picture/name, etc.).

I think a protected account limits reach and exposure, but it could foster a sense of security for those starting out.

Chuck Gose is a VP in solutions marketing for RMG Networks and the company’s global practice leader in employee communications. A version of this article first appeared on the RMG Networks blog.

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