One year on – does the thought of implementing social media in your workplace still fill you with fear?

I’m proud to reintroduce my mentee, Sarah Hodges to readers of Diary of an internal communicator. She’s written a post to update you on an exciting project she undertook while studying for a diploma. I’ll hand over to Sarah to update you…

It was almost a year ago now that Rachel kindly let me take over her blog and write a post for the first time. Some of you may remember I was appealing to internal communicators to share with me their experiences of implementing social media tools in the workplace.

The reason for my request was to gather insights for a project I was completing as part as part of the Institute of Internal Communicators (IoIC) Advanced Level Diploma. One year on, and with the diploma under my belt, I wanted to write an update and share with you some of the findings from my group project – and find out if things have changed for you.

What role does the internal communicator play?
As a group, we were tasked to research social media in the workplace and as part of this I focused specifically on the role of the internal communicator. There has been much discussion on the role that internal communicators will have in the future if we move to truly collaborative ways of working. As we have seen recently with some companies deciding to turn off email in the workplace, there has been some discussion amongst communicators on the role we will play in five years time if we move away from these channels of communication.

It was refreshing for me to discover therefore that, for the majority of internal communicators I interviewed, their role was still safe. Many of them were embracing new social tools and did not see their introduction as a sign they would soon be out the door.

Around 38.7% of those we surveyed said that they thought there would be a role for them in the five years time, with 51.6% believing their role would look and feel very different from what it is today. Just 9.7% believed they would not have a role in five years.

Interestingly, many of the internal communicators who I spoke to said that they saw their role evolving and changing as new social tools were introduced – requiring them to take on the role of a curator, or coach – rather than as a distributor of messages. According to our findings, 23.3% of internal communicators are finding themselves educating their senior leadership teams on using social tools in the workplace, so that they can contribute to the conversations themselves.

Right now however, most internal communicators (56.7%) said that when it came to social media their role is to contribute and guide online conversations to ensure that the right strategic messages are put across consistently.

What I learnt
Not having worked with social media tools internally before starting this project meant that I learnt a lot along the way. What has changed for me most significantly is the way that I now think about social media in the workplace. I try not to refer to it as a ‘channel’ but as a ‘social tool’ – moving away from the idea of using it to broadcast messages as internal communicators might have done in the past, but thinking about it as a way to maximise the opportunities to invite people into conversations.

The project also taught me that while many companies might be keen to measure the impact of social media internally, at the end of the day it is the users who decide what the real benefits are. You can have broad objectives outlining what you want to achieve from implanting social tools, but the benefits for the users are often hard to measure.

What about you? How do our findings compare to your experiences of using social tools in the workplace? How has your role changed since implementing them?

Evidence for our project was based on a series of case studies, and I am grateful to Steve Murgatroyd and Jenni Wheller for their input into my research.

Post author: Sarah Hodges.

Thank you for updating us Sarah and congratulations again on completing the diploma. What do you think about what she’s written? Do any of those stats surprise you? You’re welcome to comment below, Rachel.

Game Changers event
Sarah is going to be sharing her research as part of the IoIC Game Changers event on the morning of 22 May near Winchester. The event will feature social media, innovation and values and is being staged by Mandarin Kite for the IoIC South region.

Game Changers will kick off at 9.30am but attendees will be welcome from 8.30am for breakfast and networking, and the event will run until 12noon. The cost is £10 for IoIC members (£35 for non-members) and it will be held at the offices of Mandarin Kite in Upham, near Winchester. Numbers will be restricted to 15 so get in early – to book a place email 

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