Internal Social Networks: Success Without Using Facebook or Twitter

Internal Social Networks: Success Without Using Facebook or Twitter

Looking to create a social community in the workplace without having to leverage social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to keep connected within your company? Well, there are some great ways to run your online groups and not run the risk of getting your personal and professional social marketing tendencies all mixed up.

First, let me just clarify that this is not a post to discourage anyone from using Facebook (Groups) and Twitter as social networks. This is meant to point out alternatives to online communities like Facebook and Twitter. I will help explain some of my rationale by citing a Facebook wall post by a former colleague a couple of years ago.

One day while checking wall posts on my Facebook page (at work of all places!) I came across a post from a colleague whom I had "friended" since we worked together. Mistake #1. In scrolling down I glanced at the post, which read: "Hey people, please keep your work out of my Facebook and I'll keep my Facebook out of work!" Yes, it rings hauntingly similar to the famous 1980's "Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" from the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials. Except this was no doubt posted with a tone of annoyance mixed with profound acrimony I can appreciate. The pairing of work and personal on Facebook and Twitter must be carefully considered when using it for internal communication purposes. Sometimes they are not "two great tastes that go great together." My colleague was on Facebook and Twitter to be social with "true friends" and family. Apparently getting work-related posts from others (not me) in a social stream was not part of how the personal social dialog was to be played out. So being a thoughtful guy, I un-friended him, and to this day I carefully consider my colleagues and clients before friending them on Facebook.

OK, it was a short but necessary story to get my point across. Before jumping into the normal social networks to reach out to colleagues, co-workers and water cooler lurkers, please consider these things:

  1. What are the basic needs for internal communications at your organization?
  2. What are the main things to communicate throughout your organization?
  3. Is there confidential or proprietary information being put into conversation?
  4. Will you dilute internal cultural significance if it's mixed into the cluttered noise of other social networks?
  5. What's the benefit of a closed social network in your organization? And more importantly, what are the risks of going through public domains?

Tools

Your company's social needs may be significant and influence the everyday working environment your company has. To create a social office and efficient experience, your tools should be defined and scalable. There are many great tools for mixing social and business-related social community building and social media monitoring. Here are just a few to explore:

Hootesuite: Great for creating segregated and filtered social lists as well as team collaboration tools and password-protected content and file sharing.

Backpack by 37signals: Another awesome internal organization and social sharing tool from the company that brought us Basecamp. Walk away from the clutter and lost-in-the-mix email chains and use Backpack to centralize messages.

Ning: A social community-building tool that allows an organization to custom-build an internal (or external) social network. Create a perfect social website to bring people together. With your own look and feel, and choice of social integration, Ning opens new doors to involvement and closes doors to outside streams if that is what you wish.

Socialgo: Create your own profiles and upload videos and blogs. It's also possible for you to adjust their privacy settings. You'll find a range of other familiar features including walls, activity feeds and the ability to search other members using multiple criteria.

  • Privacy of member profiles can be easily customized.
  • Members have the option of designing their own profiles.
  • Members can find each other using multiple search criteria.
  • Profiles have walls, activity feeds and other great features.

Custom Social Communities

Sometimes your company's social community needs are more complex than the above-mentioned tools can meet. Be it the complexities of the social network agenda, scrutiny over sensitive or protected content, or communication needed for a larger-scale audience, there are always solutions for all. Here at The New Group we believe that the needs of our clients should be put first to give them the best solution for their projects. Our customer insights practice allows us to define the goals of our clients and their audience before we create a unique strategy.

One example of internal social media networks and online communities that The New Group played an active role in creating and managing was the GRAMMY365.com social community for The Recording Academy. The community is focused on the music industry internally but was open to all to The Recording Academy members to contribute to and any music fan to comment on. The GRAMMYs asked The New Group to design and build an online Drupal-based community to promote the 2009 GRAMMY Awards. The community allows registered users to:

  • Meet and connect with other members from around the country (and the world) to grow personal networks, book shows, find jobs and share experiences.
  • Access online and chapter events, including networking with other members from around the country.
  • Share their work and solicit advice and feedback from other respected members.

Web-Based

Whether using out-of-box tools created by application developers or custom tools created by an interactive agency like The New Group that develops proprietary tools, your internal social media strategy should not be cost inhibited. There are other simple and (possibly) free ways to communicate socially in the workplace. Here are a few more online options to get you going and keep the internal conversations lively:

  • Inter-office chat applications (Adium IM, Bonjour, MS or Yahoo Messenger)
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Groups on Vimeo video sharing (ability to create your own password-protected pages)
  • Spotify for music sharing (share music interests and new music via social)
  • Flickr for photo sharing (password-protected pages to feature internal images)

And finally, please never forget the tried and true process of direct face-to-face communication. It's always the best way to better get to know people in your organization and create a true social community.