Social Media in the Enterprise

    April 7, 2006

Fun’s fun, but let’s get serious. David Murray, in his editor’s column in the Journal of Employee Communications Management, asked:

Is social media The Next Big Thing in our business? I know you’ll let me know by answering this urgent call for essays. Please, readers. Please try to succeed where Allan Jenkins has failed: teaching me (and your colleagues) about how social media can make for better internal communications.

The Allan-Jenkins-failed nonsense aside (it was not a goal of Allan’s blog to teach David anything), I have no doubt that social media can enhance a company’s performance by altering the nature of communication within the organization. But rather than simply evangelize the various ways that might be so, I put out a call to communicators I know in companies where social media have been implemented. As responses come in, I’ll post them here.

First out of the gate is Brian Kramer, manager of Global Web Communications for McDonald’s:

From our global intranet, we are using secured blogs as a way to share best practices and better align individuals, departments, and subject matter areas. Blogging helps fill a gap that sometimes exists in our current online environment with more traditional one-directional websites or applications. By providing for real-time, two-way dialogue between individuals and groups of individuals over the web, blogs can help break down geographic barriers and allow for improved sharing of best practices and provide important links to existing content on the intranet. Our President and COO, Mike Roberts, was our first internal blogger, and almost immediately he found the blog to be a great way to gain insight and feedback from people at all levels of the company. In some of his first posts, Mike had more than forty comments from multiple countries providing ideas on a number of items including ways to improve our operations and sharing innovative ideas from different markets.

Thanks to Brian for the contribution. I’ll post more as they arrive in my inbox. Anybody else who wants to share successes in deploying social media internally, comment here or drop me an email. Let’s see if we can collect enough real-world tales to convince David that social computing, if not the next big thing, is at least a big deal.

Part II

The second installment in this series comes from Michael Pusateri, vice president, Engineering at the Disney ABC Cable Networks Group in Burbank, California:

Is social media The Next Big Thing in our business?

Well, not to be a naysayer, but I don’t see it that simply adding blogs with a touch of wikis suddenly leads to big improvements in company performance. IMHO, the social software’ tools are inexpensive and versatile bits of code that allow existing information workflows to function better at a lower costs than traditional alternatives. Most companies have a plan (though sometimes poor) for internal communications and weblog software makes it simple to implement the plan in an understandable and recognizable way.

Most workers recognize the information architecture of a weblog, informational posts in a chronological order with a personal writing style, and can accept it as a valid mode of communication. Making the leap to something like Atom & RSS syndication and aggregation is something most people are not familiar with and therefore is a much bigger leap to make.

Again, IMHO, the key to using social media’ is in having something to say and a plan to say it. The tools are secondary. Too often the tools come first, “Look, we have a company weblog.” instead of “Look, we have something interesting to say.”

We’ve been able to take existing workflows and use weblogs and syndication to improve the process significantly, with the user seeing a fundamental change they need to adapt to. Our use of wikis is moving forward slowly, but is a fundamental change in the way we work. That kind of change takes time.

If anything is the next big thing, it’s open and shared code bases that allow organizations to tweak software rapidly to remain agile.

Pusateri’s take-that the tools are employed as the means of achieving goals as part of a strategy-is entirely consistent with my own philosophy (which you know if you’re a reader of this blog). To Mike’s point: Social computing is a cultural shift that will occur gradually within organizations that employ the tools in support of business objectives and employee needs. Thanks, Mike!

Part III

Communication representatives from a third company have weighed in with details about the benefits of deploying social media for internal communications purposes. This time its Jim Lukach, manager of Online Communications, and Jochen Specht, webmaster, for Siemens Corporation:

Here are some of the things we are up to:

Here at Siemens we have found the new forms of online communications to be so effective that the company is now getting ready to roll out a global platform for employee blogging. With our colleagues in Germany, we were quick to identify how blogging could be a solution in bringing a global corporation closer together. The new platform will open blogging up to all of our global employees. Our global CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, maintains a blog for internal communications purposes and receives comments from employees all over the world. In the U.S., we are also experimenting with podcasting and video blogs. They seem to work well as a supplement to our more traditional forms of communication and we plan on using them more and more in the future.

Add to | Digg | Yahoo! My Web


Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.