9 ways AT&T boosts its internal social network

It’s not out of your hands once you launch. Success and employee engagement requires planning and follow-up—and maybe a few sweatshirts bearing your logo.

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Lee Diaz, a senior manager at AT&T, had been pushing employees to fill out their profiles on its tSpace platform.

Diaz’s mom, who also works for the company, wasn’t fully on board, though. She hadn’t yet posted her 35th-anniversary badge. He had to show her how.

Getting Mom to update her internal profile might not be a major career victory, but it represents something bigger.

Knowledge and experience can get buried when you have a workforce of 260,000 employees and another 250,000 non-payroll partners, says Diaz, senior manager of emerging communications and global marketing organization. Profiles help people find the expertise they need.

“You’re looking at essentially a small city of half a million people,” he says. “How do you connect?”

This is just one reason the communications giant is so big on internal social media.

Diaz works with three internal platforms. The AT&T Insider provides news, collaboration features, search and navigation, an apps store, and other features. There’s a video platform, and tSpace allows for social business, supporting 1,500 blogs, communities, file sharing, and more.

So, how do you keep internal social business on track—and make it a success? Here are some tips:

1. “Reverse mentor” your leadership.

Get as many top leaders involved as possible, and teach them about social media, Diaz says. Some execs may need only a meeting or two. Others might want to get together monthly.

Remember, industry pros tend to be knowledgeable about platforms, but some execs may be more inclined to ask, “What’s a Twitter? How do I set up a Facebook page? Why are my kids even on Facebook?” Diaz says.

2. Use new tools to share a larger story.

Move beyond one-way email communications and encourage collaboration around stories, Diaz says. Maximize the experience with new tools.

This means allowing commenting on articles, and posting videos made in tandem with articles. Stories can cross over to blogs, and calls to action can be linked to polls or forums.

“If you allow conversations to happen,” Diaz says, “employees will want to jump in.”

3. Go mobile.

If, as with AT&T, a large percentage of your staff works in the field or in scattered stores, make sure they can read or view your communications.

“We spend a lot of time producing [content], thinking they’re going to read it, and then they have no access to it,” he says.

4. Customize.

So, you’ve made the big outlay for an internal social media platform, and now you’re having buyer’s remorse. It doesn’t have all the tools you now feel you need. Fear not—that’s normal.

“There’s never going to be a one-stop shop for every solution that you create, and you’re never going to make everyone happy,” Diaz says.

Be prepared to customize. You can also push back with your vendors. They might be hearing the same thing from other customers.

5. Find partners everywhere.

Get the right people at the table from day one: PR, compliance, legal, labor, and others. You’ll learn about the features they need, and you’ll win them over. They are essential in developing policies as well.

“If you invest in them early on, they can become your greatest partners in this space,” he says.

6. Boost real-time participation.

Don’t be shy. Let them post comments during town halls and other live events. Allow hashtags and status updates in webcasts for greater engagement.

Tell the masses, “Hey, you can, in real time, provide your feedback and thoughts around the webcast that you’re watching,” Diaz says.

7. Train them.

Don’t just dump the new platform on them and dust off your hands. AT&T’s tSpace hosted more than 300 training meetings.

Shift your training focus from “What is it?” to “How can you use it?” Diaz says. What tools have the greatest utilities? What problems can be solved through the apps? How can you improve vertical and horizontal communications and collaboration?

8. Push the concept of a social brand.

Ask your employees how they wish to be seen. Urge them to create profile names or handles that are easy to remember. Stress posting material that’s relevant, clear, and up to date.

“You have a personal social brand, and how you want to maintain that is really important,” Diaz says.

9. Spotlight excellence.

People love the limelight. Show off successes by writing how-to guides and mini white papers that feature individuals, he says.

Contests and raffles can spread the word about best practices. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on prizes.

“You have no idea what people will do for a sweatshirt with your logo on it,” Diaz says.

Then again, when something’s really important, like completing a profile, AT&T entered names into a drawing for a trip for two to the NCAA basketball Final Four. A video-related raffle offered a trip to Austin, Texas, for the SXSW music, film, and interactive festival.

The company made videos about the winners and had them contribute blog posts. All that helped keep the subject alive.

No word yet on how Diaz’s mom did in the raffle—but she did get compliments on that profile.

@R_Working (Image via)

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