A 5-step roadmap to build internal social media

Research reveals the three major factors employees look for to determine if their company’s social media program is effective.

The adoption of using social technologies inside the organization is rampant.

Many companies are hearing the loud beat of the “employee engagement” drum, but the task of effectively assessing your needs, implementing technologies correctly, and measuring for success and sustainability is daunting. So, it’s okay to slow down, take a deep breath and work from a well-crafted roadmap.

Few things make employees more cynical than a social media platform that no one uses. And if your company quickly deployed a [“insert social tool here”] only to find that it fell flat because no one saw the value in using it then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s refreshing to see firms such as Gagen MacDonald and APCO Worldwide working together to help shape internal social media programs. Recently, they analyzed research among U.S. adults working for companies with more than 500 employees that revealed 21 discrete attributes which in turn combine to form three major factors (see image below) that employees look for when deciding whether their company has effective social media internally.

As a result of their research, Gagen MacDonald and APCO Worldwide created a five-step process to build social media from within, ensuring sustainable change through shared goal-setting, leadership alignment, employee training and measurement of key metrics. Some highlights are below, but the full whitepaper is available: Harness the Power of Internal Social Media.

1. Assess

  • Prioritize your business objectives by determining what you are trying to achieve: retain employees, boost collaboration, enhance executive visibility, increase speed to innovation, or turn your employees into powerful brand ambassadors.
  • Map your communication by analyzing your current information flow and determining how employees engage your intranet or social media tools.
  • Decide what your ideal social media ecosystem would look like. What cultural differentiators do you hope to foster?

2. Align for design

  • Assess your perceived issues and actual limitations by balancing potential risks against projected gains in productivity, collaboration and innovation.
  • Develop solid company guidelines for social media use and use metrics to measure how well your engagement tools work.
  • Align and train your leadership and get senior management buy-in to create a social networking mindset across business functions.

3. Implement

  • Identify the most effective tools for your needs—from wikis and microblogs to robust knowledge-sharing and innovation platforms.
  • Work closely with your IT teams to ensure your efforts are compliant with all internal rules, standards and architectures.

4. Ensure sustainability

  • To harness the power of social media and ensure your networking investments are sustainable, it is essential that you implement replicable, enterprise-wide training to overcome capability gaps (e.g., generational, geographical) that are present within your company.

5. Measure and adjust

  • Judging social media ROI is difficult. But by establishing a benchmark and then conducting employee engagement focus groups and surveys, linkage analyses, social media diagnostics and business analytics, it is possible to gauge how well you did.
  • Keep what works, tweak what doesn’t. Identify your challenges and find cost-effective ways to take advantage of your social media channels.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: It’s innovative and encouraging to see so many companies tackling collaboration and productivity through the use of social technologies. But an interactive company doesn’t automatically create an engaged workforce.

It’s easy to create a collaboration portal, but it’s much more difficult to make engagement a way of life in your organization.

I’m interested in hearing what you think about this roadmap and whether it differs from one that you might have created.

Elizabeth Lupfer is senior manager, employee experience and Web technology at Verizon. She is a writer and keynote speaker through her blog, The Social Workplace, where a version of this article originally ran.

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