Internal Comms up for discussion at Social Media World Forum

This week thousands of Comms professionals and social media enthusiasts flocked to Olympia in London for the Social Media World Forum, Europe. I followed via Twitter using the hashtag #SMWF and enjoyed reading the comments from people I’ve been reading about for years including Chris Brogan and Scott Monty.

Comms professional Sonsoles Lumbreras attended the forum on 27 and 28 March and here she writes for Diary of an internal communicator, to share her thoughts on what she experienced and the impressions she formed. Over to you Sonsoles…

The forum was two intense days full of interesting talks, debates, workshops and case studies about the use of social media for business. Some of the sessions discussed the use of social media for internal communications, with the presence of awesome speakers coming from companies such as Bupa, Aviva, Heinz and Apache Corporation.

Creating a unified social media presence
In one of the panels, called ‘Internal communications: The importance of employee engagement in creating a unified social media presence’, there were some interesting ideas generated by the speakers. The session looked at how businesses are engaging employees through internal communication channels and whether external comms channels can help to reinforce content and discussions happening internally.

According to Andrew Barendrecht, from Apache Corporation, it is important to engage all levels of the organisation but “it is not that easy.” It was interesting to see how the time taken to engage employees when using internal social media varies from one company to another. For some, it only took six weeks, while for others it took a whole year. However there was a general feeling among the panel participants that it is difficult to make employees embrace the use of these new communications tools and that training could be a good way to make people understand how to do it and why they are useful.

One-to-one training
“We gave 10 minutes training to 4000 people individually”, said Barendrecht. For most of the speakers, they said that younger or less experienced employees were very reluctant to make comments on social platforms at the beginning, “since they thought they were going to say silly things.” Barendrecht highlighted that the group of employees who participated were between 35-45 years old as they were keen to show their knowledge about their work.

According to many of the speakers, as soon as senior managers embrace the use of social media within an organisation, younger employees get on board. It was good to hear, for example, how executives at Tibco are active on internal social platforms. “It is a good sign of the organisation’s culture when questions are posted on these platforms and people come with answers”, said Lars Ploughman, Enterprise adoption strategist at Tibco.

Changing perceptions
Another issue discussed during this panel was the way to change the perception of management regarding social media. According to the panel, there are many ways to do this including:

  • communicating to managers the reasons as to why, as a company, you are investing in these new platforms
  • highlighting the  benefits e.g. breaking down silos or making employee connections
  • piloting the tools with a group of employees for a set period of time.

The most important tip was to avoid the use of the ‘social network/social media’ terms, changing them for ‘collaboration tools’ instead.

Bupa Live
In my opinion, the best presentation about the use of social media for internal communication was from Bupa (pictured). Jennifer Dixon, ex Head of Internal Communications, and Nick Crawford, Social Media Strategist, showed us how to build and implement an enterprise social media strategy to align with business objectives, creating an environment where employees feel comfortable to make suggestions and critique company policy.

They achieved this by creating Bupa Live, a social media platform that currently has:

  • more than 5000 user groups
  • 90 per cent of users talking about work-related content
  • 90000 documents uploaded
  • 50,000 comments generated.

Dixon says that for a multinational company like Bupa, “it was really important to get people to work together and share. It was key to get leaders on board, since their participation could engage and inspire colleagues around the world.” She demonstrated how the CEO shared his activities via video and employees could ask him questions.

For Bupa, it was also essential to enable social learning, encouraging employees to share relevant content about their work on a Business Forum. Since its creation, Bupa Live is also empowering the front line for innovation, providing a ‘place’ to share ideas and gather comments about them.

Additionally, the site has helped to meet business needs as comments about customers’ feelings and insights about products are posted on it by Bupa employees. Dixon also underlined that organisations shouldn’t be scared of pure social content on these platforms: on Bupa Live, 10 per cent of the shared content is purely social, for example discussions about films and other topics. (Picture Tweeted by @ThomasPower)

Setting the strategy
Another interesting panel I attended discussed ‘The importance of governance in developing a successful strategy for social media.’ Members of the panel were: Nick Stringer, Director of Regulatory Affairs at IAB UK; Andrew Gerrard, Head of Social Business at Like Minds; Guy Stephens, Strategy Consultant at Capgemini and James Firth, CEO at Open Digital Policy Org.

My main take-away from the speakers is that when it comes to developing a strategy for social media, a sense of control is important. However it is better to concentrate efforts on educating employees on how to use social media tools internally and externally, making it clear what they can and can’t do. The panellists all agreed that there should be a good balance between control and autonomy for employees.

Did you attend the Social Media World Forum? What did you think of it? What did you learn? You can comment below, Sonsoles.

Post author: Sonsoles Lumbreras.

Thank you for writing this article Sonsoles and giving us a glimpse into some of the conversations this week. If you missed the forum, there are lots of places to read about what happened: check out the Tweet wall, Twitter feed or blog, Rachel.

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