Social media: internal, external, what's the difference?

Social media: internal, external, what's the difference?

Here’s part two of our interview with Tracy Playle of Pickle Jar Communications on the subject of social media for internal communication

So, Tracy, what if any, are the main differences to using social media for internal and external audiences?

Tracy: The differences in terms of actual use are negligible. People are people irrespective of whether they are colleagues, managers, team members, customers or a complete stranger on the street. The principles of engaging and communicating with other people remain the same.

So, the differences are more likely to be relating to the tools and platforms that you choose to use. The social and digital media spectrum as I see it is vast, encompassing anything from online video and podcasts, to wikis, micro-blogging (Twitter, Yammer), blogging, mobile apps, social networking, instant messaging… I could go on. Some platforms are very open and public by their very nature (Twitter, for example) so they’d need to be used with far more care if used for communications intended only for internal audiences. That’s where tools like Yammer and SharePoint are useful, as they can easily be controlled for internal-only viewing. But just because you choose to set spaces up in some places, doesn’t mean that your staff won’t decide to go ahead and set up their own spaces elsewhere, where they might feel more comfortable and familiar with the layout and functionality (Facebook, for example), and this can be difficult to control.

Have you experienced a backlash to using social media from staff and/or managers?

Tracy: Of course! You only have to look at the many reports that suggest time spent on social media sites at work loses companies money (though there are other reports now to suggest the opposite, so who really knows – you have to question what else employees might be doing with that time…), and the number of organisations that block access to social media sites on their IT networks. But it’s a pointless task. People will find a way to use them, and their so ubiquitous now that it’s best to work with them than pretend that they don’t exist. The company that completely closes off all use of social media is essentially sending out a message that they don’t want their staff to have a voice, and that is akin to not caring about what their staff think and feel. Who would want to work there? It also closes off potential for collaboration and development of new ideas across the whole organization.

Find out more and book for Tracy’s Social media for internal comms course on 6th April.