Five Social Media Tools for Internal Business Communication

Much has been written regarding the positive measurable impact Social Media Marketing has had on the competitive business landscape. It’s given a voice to companies and consumers alike, asserting the power of collective communication by empowering and liberating those who had been stifled by their inability to share their values, experiences, opinions, knowledge, and expertise to mass audiences in traditional settings. The ability to participate in local and global conversations has created a phenomenon where consumers don’t have to be blasted with traditional messaging anymore. They can now interact with these businesses thus creating a higher level of understanding and loyalty that carries forward and tempts all to participate. Confucius said, “…tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand…” A philosophy applied generationally for the last 2,500 years, and one that at the core will continue push the evolution of the business landscape for years to come.

Confucius As Social Media tools are reaching new levels of sophistication within the B2B and B2C playing fields, a new trend is emerging in the way businesses interact internally. Social tools are now being applied to enhance employee engagement, improve internal communication, promote team camaraderie, communicate on a global scale, and create internal touch points that were previously unavailable. Whatever the vernacular of your choice is, New Media, Web 2.0, or Social Media, the fact remains that these once misunderstood and often overlooked tools are creating efficiencies, inspiring innovation, promoting information sharing, and fostering an extremely high level of effective cross-functional communication for those businesses who have the savvy and vision to utilize them. Below are five tools that are raising the bar and the profits:

Yammer - Yammer is a microblogging service that can be considered the enterprise version of Twitter. Yammer focuses on businesses, and only individuals with the same email domain can join a given network. David Sacks, founder of Yammer, simplifies it by stating, “If Twitter asks, ‘What are you doing?’, Yammer asks, ‘What are you working on?’”. According to Greg Lowe, a social media architect for Alcatel-Lucent, they use Yammer to break down barriers between business units and employees around the world. The company now has 1,000 users on Yammer, with 200 posts a day, discussing subjects such as how they use their own products internally, corporate policies, and cultural issues.

"I think what's really interesting is that people seem more engaged because it's an open platform that isn't bound by organization," Lowe says. Normal collaboration initiatives begin in individual business units and are often limited to that business unit, but Yammer collaboration crosses company boundaries.

DigsbyDigsby is an instant messaging (IM) application that supports most mainstream IM protocols such as AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, and Facebook Chat. Digsby also supports e-mail notifications and alerts from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Internal Communication

SkypeSkype is a software application that allows users to make telephone calls over the internet. Features include instant messaging, file transfer, and video conferencing. It can foster face-to-face communication with colleagues located all over the world without the travel and cost. A great example of Skype’s usefulness can be seen in its use by the Australian based surf retailer, Rip Curl. Rip Curl's designers and manufacturers work together on video calls from their bases all over the world – including Australia, Asia, California and France. Video calls are a key part of the design process, used to show designs, corrections, patterns and ideas. They place dummies in front of their web cams to point out specific issues – which save complicated explanations and stops any misinterpretations.

“For us the video calling is key,” says Media Manager, Dane Sharp. “We can actually hold up parts of a wetsuit and see what the designers are talking about, rather than trying to explain verbally.”

Wiki – A wiki is a website that allows for the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages. Wikis are often used to create and power collaborative community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis.

Typically, high-level strategy documents are formulated by a handful of people atop the corporate hierarchy. At Xerox , Chief Technology Officer Sophie VanDebroek turned the process inside out by setting up a wiki that would allow researchers in the R&D group to define collaboratively the company's technology strategy. VanDebroek expects a more robust technology roadmap and a much stronger competitive strategy section as a result. "We'll get more content and knowledge in all of our areas of expertise," she says, "including everything from material science to the latest document services and solutions."

Podcast – A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, made available for download via web syndication. The syndication aspect of the delivery is what differentiates podcasts from other ways of accessing files, such as simple download. The software can automatically identify and retrieve new files in a series when they are made available, by accessing a centrally-maintained web feed that lists all files currently associated with that particular podcast. Internally, podcasts would be extremely useful for instructional videos, messages from senior management, information sharing, tutorials, etc.

As we know, effective internal communication is one thing that can’t be compromised when striving for a happy and effective workforce that directly relates to the long term success of a business. Creating the ability to share knowledge, expertise, thoughts, and innovation in an efficient, consumable, and targeted manner is helping businesses better manage their internal relationships, build a culture of thought leadership, and create an atmosphere of voracious learning. The internal use of Social Media tools is breaking down the traditional upward, downward, and horizontal communication barriers that existed inter and intra-departmentally, and creating deeper and more rewarding relationships top-down. Although some barriers to entry still exist (slow to adopt, security concerns, senior management apathy, fear of technology), the positive measurable impact of utilizing these innovative communication platforms is proving too much for companies to continue to ignore.

- Kurt Kaufer, Associate at eBoost Consulting

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