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Culture Trumps Technology

When Integrating Social Media for Enterprises


Last week I was lucky enough to sit in on a session of the Executive Strategy Network, an elite group of leaders from the Best Companies to Work For® who come together twice a year to discuss a current topic on their collective minds. At this autumn meeting, hosted by Silicon Valley-based NetApp, #6 on the 2012 FORTUNE 100 Best List, the topic was Using Social Media to Enable Transparency and Collaboration.  While many themes and ideas emerged over the course of this day-and-a-half-long meeting, the most universally applicable take-away I captured was rooted in the foundation of adopting these new technologies. At the heart of the matter is your company’s culture.

Most businesses today are readily using social media for external reasons, namely for marketing and branding purposes.  But the number of companies turning to social platforms for internal communications is on the rise–
81 of the companies on this year's100 Best List actively use social media as a means to keep their employees connected

But why would a company adopt social media to communicate internally and what do you need in order to be successful in the socialsphere? Our elite group of executives had much to impart from their hands-on experience integrating social technologies in their workplaces.

For them, as for the world at large, social media offers a way to connect people that no other medium provides. It’s fast, it’s accessible and, when it’s done right, it’s a powerful way to further transparency and collaboration across your entire organization.

For example, when Super-storm Sandy hit the east coast last month, Twitter allowed many companies to keep their employees informed of the latest developments that affected them. In seconds, companies were able to let staff know to stay home if their work premises were closed due to the storm’s rampage. Vital information was sent quickly and easily to the people who needed it.

Before you go chasing after the latest swanky-named platform, like Yammer, Jive or Chatter, beware of the trap that has snared countless companies in their pursuit of getting their social on: which is “leading with the tool.” Too often organizations place the majority of their resources into implementing their chosen social platform without assessing whether they have the necessary foundation to support the adoption of social media.

If your company’s culture is steeped in transparency and collaboration, you will be more adept at implementing social media because your practices and policies already support the interactions inherent to these technologies. Once you have the environment prepped for social media (your culture and practices), you’re ready to establish the “what,” in the form of your internal social strategy, which will contain your clearly defined strategic objectives: what does the organization hope to get out of using social media?  By approaching the implementation of social media for internal communications with a strong foundation and clear objectives, you’ll be better informed to find the right technological platform to carry out your strategy. This approach of making the tool “a means to an end,” rather than the end goal, will give you a better shot of successfully creating your workplace of the future.

Learn more about the Executive Strategy Network, and check back Wednesday, November 14th when we announce the 2012 World's Best Multinational Workplaces!

Kelli Marjolet is the Marketing Manager and occasional blogger for Great Place to Work®.


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