Internal Comms professionals learn about social media

On 1 December a Social Media seminar for Internal Communicators took place in London, I saw on Twitter that Sonsoles Lumbreras was attending and asked her to write an article for Diary of an internal communicator to share what happened with readers of my blog. You can see some of the discussions from the day via Twitter.

Don’t forget that I’m always on the lookout for guest writers who are communications professionals to contribute to this site, so if you attend a training course, seminar or Internal Comms event that you think other IC pros would enjoy reading about, do get in touch with me: with your idea.

Sonsoles is a communications professional with 10 years of work experience in Spain as a journalist and as a communications consultant, having worked at several communication agencies for clients from the public and private sector. In the last year she studied a Masters in Corporate Communication at Kingston University in London, which is how we got to know each other as I helped Sonsoles with her research for her dissertation about the use of social media in the process of communicating organisational change. Now she’s keen to work in Internal Communications, which she says she’s passionate about, particularly in the use of social media to communicate with employees.

Over to you Sonsoles…

The Social Media seminar for Internal Communicators, organised by Simply-Communicate discussed the way to set up a Social Media strategy within companies. It looked at how to engage employees and overcome all the possible pitfalls that arise during that process. Communications professionals from companies across Europe, such as Lloyds, Unilever, Diageo and Deutsche Bank attended the event.

The day started with Mark Wright’s presentation. He is editor of the Gower Handbook of Internal Communication and an expert in social media. Wright pointed out that Communications professionals should no longer manage communications but help everybody to communicate better within their organisations. He said it is the simple fact that people are going where conversations are, which is now on social media platforms, which is why companies cannot afford to avoid the adoption of these media to communicate with employees.

“You should create an environment where people love your channels”, said Wright. I found it interesting to see the various display of different social media on the Twitter triangle (which you can see on this page). An easy way to explain the different uses of social media platforms within companies is:

  • YouTube/Blogs/Wikis to tell information about issues happening in the organisation
  • Twitter/ Yammer to promote this content and respond to people’s comments
  • The community part of Facebook/Sharepoint/LinkedIn allows you to have relationships and build trust in your tweets and other signposts

During the debate, everyone in the room agreed that money is not an issue to implement social media inside the workplace, but the real challenge is to make the business understand its use and educate people about how to use it.

We also discussed how it is important to change people’s behaviours. We saw interesting examples of social media being used for external comms, Wright showed us how it is easier for a company to avoid reputation damage if they are using social media to respond to customers’ complaints or comments. The same can happen using these communications platforms within an organisation.

Recipe for success
Wright also applied the SUCCESS techniques, from the Made To Stick book on the use of social media for Internal Communications.

Keep it:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional and
  • tell Stories.

During the debate, a general feeling shown among delegates was that email is overused nowadays within companies. Do we need to get rid of emails then? Well, maybe only use them for what they are useful.

“Emails are not good for collaboration, but social media are”, pointed out Wright. A good example is that Atos (a leading technological company) is on its way to ban the use of email within its organisation.

It was also surprising to learn that there is a UPS internet forum created by employees but not monitored by the organisation. In my view this is a really bad practice that any company should avoid. As Wright stated: “Your work is to be where conversations are.”

Silvia Cambié, who has been internationally awarded for her work building social media networks, talked about important tips to take into account when creating social media communities within an organisation.

She said that co-creation, crowdsourcing and stories are the three main topics to animate communities on social media. So everyone should collaborate when creating the content, should be taken into account to give ideas and helping to solve problems and it is fundamental to tell stories, with a human component, to encourage people to participate on social media platforms.

Two other ideas were interesting from Cambié’s presentation: the use of social media within an organisation should be linked to a business need, so it is fundamental to turn social media participation into value for the organisation, and in order to measure participation it is important to look at the quality of interaction behind the number of participants. And “what type of social media personality do you have?”, Cambié asked the audience. There are the sharers, the readers, the mavens, the commenters, the word-of-mouthers and the power holders. And it is necessary to think about the different groups you can have into an organisation before designing a social media strategy.

Other important ideas pointed out by Cambié were that Comms professionals should always be involved in the social media strategy from the start (of course!), the off-line component should be kept together with the online, it is important to use different devices (such as mobile ones) to encourage everyone to contribute to the conversation and companies should look for local solutions when developing their global social media strategies.

Spotting talent
It was also very inspirational to listen to some delegates who are already implementing social media strategies within their companies. For example, UniCredit has created an internal platform to spot talent, with communities talking about different areas of interest. Or the creation of Fanclub by O2, an internal social networking site where people could nominate their colleagues for the O2 annual awards.

Lee Stevens was in charge of explaining the advantages of Share Point 2010, one of the social media tools more used by companies. Stevens stressed that the first problem for its adoption is that people do not get trained.

Finally, Lawrence Clarke, from Sift Groups, took to the floor to talk about how to create internal communities on social media within organisations, based on learning & development, projects, events and social interests, leading to collaboration among employees and skills/knowledge sharing.

A summary of the impressions gathered could be the answer to this question asked during the seminar: “How do you avoid negative reactions or opposition to the use of social media within the company”. Conversations are happening anyway out there, but when they are taking place on social media you can see who is commenting and answer to people, and employees themselves can respond to other colleagues negative comments.

If you want to know more about what happened on the Simply Social Seminar, check out this link to view their storify feed.

Thanks again Sonsoles, sounds like you found it a really useful day and came away with lots of interesting facts and case studies.

Post author: Sonsoles Lumbreras


  1. Interesting comment from the Sharepoint expert: “the first problem for its adoption is that people do not get trained.” How many people get trained to use Facebook etc? Perhaps Sharepoint is a bit too difficult to use…

    BTW. I know Sharepoint can be tweaked to make it work in almost any way you want it to, but too often the people doing the tweaking know all about functionality, and very little about user experience!

  2. Lee Stevens says:

    Hi Mark,

    I was the said ‘expert’!

    SharePoint isnt Facebook, just as Facebook isnt SharePoint so I think comparing the two is not really comparing apples with apples!

    I apreciate you comments. However, my comment regarding training was in regard more to the collaboration side of SharePoint and also any applications that have been built using it.

    I still stand by my claim in the fact that most large scale SharePoint roll outs neglect to offer end users anything in terms of training. You will get the normal 30-40% that can get on and just use the thing but most can’t be bothered learning, so give up. Even a link to a ‘How to’ PDF would be better than nothing!

    If it helps, I really wasn’t happy with the content I covered. Within 10 minutes of me talking, I think it was clear to see that all that anyone wanted to see was Blogs and Wikis! When my whole presentation was around how the Collaboration side of SharePoint being able to compliment the Social Media aspects also.

    I am not a seasoned speaker so learnt a great deal from the talk that I did. I tried something and don’t think it really work for the audience in question.

    For thise that were there,I am definately going to

    – Ask for more time to speak next time! (I crammed a lot into 40 minutes)
    – Get more case Studies in

    Any other feedback, would also be apreciated. Twitter @leestevens1979

  3. Rachel Miller says:

    Thank you for your comments gents.

    Lee that’s interesting to know what people were keen to find out more about. Offer is always open for you to write another guest post if you’d like to take opportunity to highlight what you know IC pros wanted to discover.


  4. Lee Stevens says:

    Hi Rachel, I may just do that!

    Its always good to get feedback. Like I said, still learning about the IC circuit :-).

    What I would say is that those companies doing anything serious all deserve praise.

  5. Alasdair says:

    I thought I’d mention that in a recent project I found a couple of major pitfalls in adoption of social media:
    1) Training – As mentioned, too many people did not know what their tools offered;
    2) Marketing – Although there is a link with training, too many people had no idea what the SM tools could offer, nor why they should adopt them; and,
    3) Business need – Too many users did not relate their very real needs to the potential solution that the SM offered.

  6. Lily Allport says:

    It’s really interesting to hear what other people are doing in the social media space. I think one of the main things I’ve learned is that you have to BE ‘social’ – it’s a behaviour… We also open up a comment facility on every news story, but it took a while before the team here started making sure that comments left were answered by the right people. It’s quite a committment to be social and if you’re going to start a conversation, you really need to be prepared to see it through.

    Our online forums are extremely popular and people use them all the time. They’re pretty much self-regulating and as an IC team, we tend only to get involved if we can help or something needs to be done.

    We do find it difficult to get the balance right sometimes – for example, as an IC professional, is it right to speak up with your own opinions? Or should you always take the corporate line? I don’t think the answer to those questions is as simple as a quick yes or no… I’d be really interested to hear about others’ experiences.

  7. Kay Jarvis says:


    I (and colleagues from the central US) have been discussing the limitations of Sharepoint. For myself, it is the only option available for a (hopefully)quick rollout. Would you be inclined to share your presentation or a link so I could learn more about the social side of Sharepoint from the user? We have programmers in place who I feel confident can make anything happen.


    Thanks so much for reporting back your findings. Very helpful, and consider me a new fan!

    Thanks much to you both,

  8. Lee Stevens says:

    Hi Kay,

    All the slide decks from the day would probably be available via Simply communicate who hosted the day.

    However, I know that my demos were done from a simulation that I downloaded (You can NEVER rely on a Wifi connection!) There is also heaps of info on

    Also, I covered MySites using hosted SharePoint 2010 site that I use, so these slides will be limited information.

    Another tip is just to open the bonnet and look yourslef. (Not sure if you need programmers, as SharePoint has LOADS out of the box) Click Site Actions > View All Site Content > Create

    This is assuming you have Site Collection Admin access on any site and will show you all of the things that you can create and use. @leestevens1979 is my Twitter account if you need any more info.

  9. Rachel Miller says:

    @Lily thanks for your comments, I think ensuring comments are answered by the right people is always worth investing time in and agree it’s very much learned behaviour to ‘be’ social. To answer your query, I know it’s hard to know which line to tread – whether to be ‘corporate’ or have your own voice too. I think making a judgement call depending on the situation would be my advice. IC pros are still employees after all.

    @Kay welcome to my blog, glad you’re enjoying what you’re reading. As you can see from Lee’s reply above, he’s shared some info and a link so this will hopefully give you the info you’re looking for.

    @Lee thanks for sharing,

    Rachel Miller

  10. Edwin says:

    Hi Everyone!

    I must say that it is very interesting to see the shift of communication from traditional to new media as well as the challenges faced by communication proffesionals in that regard.

    However i would like to know how would one go about tailoring social media communications to the two most different audiences ( X and Y generations). The thing is social media work best for the Y generation since they can easily understand and access it almost everywhere they go. How are you going to ensure that the X generation who are probably Shareholders and board of directors in the organisation actually understand the uses and coding/language of the social media?

    The reason i am asking you guys these questions is that i have studied social media as my B-Tech degree in Public Relations Managememt and part of my preliminary research showed that the old ones are stubborn to learn and play an active role in these social networks and unfortunately in most of the cases we have to run ideas/social media strategies via them before implementation because they are directors of communication departments. This is said from a developing country like mine (South Africa).

    Is either they (managers) get too excited and want a social media visibility for the organisation and think that each an every stakeholder would understand it, particularly in organisations that offer services rather than selling products.

  11. Companies in my opinion need to change their mindset when using social media. They need to understand that they can only ever be part of the conversation in the hope to influence its direction. Too often companies think they can own the social media channel and messages and hence fail.

  12. Oleksandra Kryshtapovych says:

    Hi to everyone!
    I popped up to this discussion somewhere on LinkedIn, and couldn’t remain silent. I work in Ukraine, for a local office of large multinational with around 600 employees scattered around the country (200 of them are in Kyiv). We had a challenge in terms of office-field communication. So, with regular employees helping us, we introduced internal social network a year ago. We could choose platform. And we chose Jive software. Main reason is, as Mark said here, user experience. It’s way better comparing to Share Point. We had some users, who don’t have Facebook account, but managed to create content with just a short oral guidance from my side (over the phone!). And some even without it.
    On the contrary, Share Point is difficult in terms of creating content for regular user, and training will not be of much help. People train to use so many programs that a tool that will ease their communication, shouldn’t be difficult at all.
    Of course, we train power users (group leaders mainly), but it’s just to help them enhance user experience in their groups.

    Commenting to Sanjay’s post, I’d add that not only companies, but employees have to change their mindset. During around 6 first months, we faced an issue that employees actually didn’t create content, but were using our network as a depository and search tool. It was contrary to our belief that, should we give employees the tool, they will use it for communication and collaboration. I see the change now, but it’s still long way to run.

    Thanks everyone for launching interesting discussion.

  13. Sonsoles says:

    Hi all!
    I am glad my post led to such a discussion!
    @Lee, sorry if I summarized too much your presentation, but it was very practical and difficult to explain on the paper, so I took a comment I considered relevant for IC professionals.
    For the masters that I finished recently, I wrote about the use of social media for communicating organisational changes, interviewing IC professionals from relevant companies based in UK, and I found really interesting insights about how some organisations are implementing social media to communicate with employees, and how others are still reluctant to it, sometimes due to managers fears of losing control over conversations among their employees.
    I think we are on the way to extend the use of these media within organisations, but it takes time managers and employees see its potential advantages for them.
    By the way, if someone is interested in reading my dissertation, I will be happy to share it with you. You can reach me at

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