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Examples of Internal Use of Social Media

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Photo by Flickr user: LaMenta3.

Internal use of social media is something that businesses are slowly beginning to adopt. Some companies use social media outlets (e.g., Facebook accounts, personal blogs) to develop a strong internal voice for employees, wherein they are able to express their concerns or suggestions about their work. Other businesses have specific social media websites that allow employees to connect with one another, in hopes of forming a more comfortable work environment.

In researching this fairly new trend, I ran across three main examples of how businesses are internally utilizing social media.

1) Corporate Blogs

For the avid social media user, blogs are nothing new. There are two primary types of blogs: the public-driven and the internal variety. The public blogs can offer consumers a more intimate view of a company’s product or the employees of the business. From a business perspective, the public blogs can provide targeted content to the public, in hopes to raise revenue or simply interest in the product it is promoting.

Kodak’s public blog is a prime example of this targeted content: the majority of the posts focus primarily on photography and not Kodak’s cameras. Since common sense tells us that photographs can only be obtained through the use of a camera, Kodak is then targeting an audience that would genuinely care about their product (the camera). From there, the audience is more likely to transition from “blog reader” to consumer.

The second type of corporate blog, the internal variety, is primarily used as a community hub where employees are able to meet, share their latest work-related news or troubleshoot any business challenges they are facing. This type of communication is essential in the field of public relations, as practitioners need to stay on top of the latest news and trends, to develop the most relevant campaigns.

In addition, this internal communication provides unity amongst employees who voice their concerns or opinions and are promptly attended to.

2) Yammer.com

Some might argue this as an office version of Twitter. Companies must set up their own corporate account and only then, can employees use their work e-mail addresses to create their own internal account.

With Yammer, business can create profiles and employees can update their company on either progress on a current project or simply how lunch was. This internal social media outlet offers the opportunity to improve internal communication while simultaneously boosting team morale.

From a public relations perspective, Yammer also introduces many employees to the uses of other social media websites (like Twitter). The more familiar and comfortable the employees are with forms of microblogging, the more likely the company will be able to pick up Twitter accounts as both a customer service and product marketing channel.

While I couldn’t log into a Yammer account, I was able to find that businesses such as Cisco, Nationwide and Groupon are using Yammer as a form of interoffice communication.

3) Pligg.com

This corporate social tool is similar to the public social tool, Digg. Pligg can be customized solely for corporate use, in which all social activity among employees will relate to a product or brand. Some companies are building Pligg into their existing intranets, in an attempt to develop social bookmarking with their staff.

From what I’ve discovered, Pligg can be used as a website to motivate an employee’s thinking of an idea through the use of a voting and ranking system that has made its counterpart (Digg) such a large success. A company’s ability to call upon the staff to offer unique thoughts or ideas and voice their experienced opinions in one website is helpful, to say the least.

Ultimately, companies are able to make the most out of internal use of social media by being able to harness collective thinking and collaborative efforts among employees, for a greater outcome.

College Students and Social Media

I assumed that all college students viewed social media in the same manner: Facebook is the main source of interaction and the easiest way to make friends. To college students, I assumed, friendship was truly validated by accepting a friend request on Facebook.

I assumed incorrectly.

Over the past two weeks, I conducted a series of interviews with students of California State University, Fresno, to try and gain a true understanding of why college students use social media.

I was able to obtain responses from six students, but only four of them were willing to give their answers on camera. The input I received was interesting and proved that many students are more knowledgeable about social media and social networking than one might expect.

What types of social media do you use and why?

At the start of each interview, the student was asked which social networking websites he or she was an active user of. Aside from the popular Facebook and Twitter, many students are active users of MySpace and Tumblr. Two of the students said that they have Flickr and Xanga accounts, but rarely log onto either website.

The second part of the question grew the most interesting, as each student gave his or her reasoning for using these social tools. Overall, the six students that participated, used social networking to simply keep up with their friends. For these students, social networking has become a platform by which one person can communicate to a multitude of people.

How do you believe other students are using social media?

“Without Facebook, I don’t know how I’d get through college,” one student said in her interview. “I think other students find comfort in knowing that there’s a place where they can post their feelings and somebody is going to listen to them.”

The common theme in the responses I received was that social media offers college students a channel to vocalize their opinions and feelings. Students are comforted in knowing that somebody is going to listen to what they have to say.

While one student believed that social media (Facebook, specifically) was a platform for college students to waste their time and “rot in front of a computer screen,” most interviewees were aware that social media is going to play a large factor in their futures.

Here are some of the responses students told me:

Should social media be incorporated into the classroom setting?

There were mixed reviews on this topic: while some students believed that social media should become part of curricula, others believed that it should be kept a separate entity, something for personal use.

Most students believed that social media shouldn’t be part of a professor’s lesson plan, but should be made available for students to have open communication about the class itself. Trisha Rodriguez, a child development major at Fresno State, believed that social media could be used as a communication channel for students to obtain clarity in the classroom. She proposed a Twitter account be created for a specific class, or a Twitter list (with a hashtag) that would allow students to ask class-related questions and get short, quick responses.

Overall, students believed that social media shouldn’t be completely ignored. They each commented that social networking would make a nice addition to the classroom setting, but (depending on the specific class) should not be a part of the curricula.

Here are some of the responses students told me:

How do you believe the job market is effected by social media, if at all?

I was surprised by the amount of awareness each student had when it came to their perception of others on the Internet. Most students said that they knew one needed to be careful of how they presented themselves online, as it could effect their getting employed with any company.

“You need to be able to censor what information you put online,” said Allyson McCaffrey, psychology major at Fresno State. “A picture of you, drunk, at a party can paint a negative image of you.”

One student believed, however, that employers should show respect for their employees and completely ignore how that person is presenting themselves on the Internet.

Overall, students were aware that employers are now using social media as part of a background check on potential employees, before (and during) employment. While Facebook was once considered a simple social website, it can now be considered a large contender in how easily you get hired.

Here are some of the opinions students had on social media in the job market:

Students seemed to have a strong grasp on the severity of social media in our lives. They believe that it can be used in both a selfish and professional manner. Overall, I found that students believed social networking websites to be communication platforms.

College students have a lot to say–they simply want a place to be heard.