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I could have phrased this title as a question really – something like: “Is social media’s true power in internal culture?”. Because whether or not the social media world has a direct impact on internal culture, despite what the progenitors of corporate social media presences might have to say, is still up for debate.
On the pro side of the argument, the “yeses” for social media giving new life to massive corporations, is the idea that using social media technology for internal communications somehow makes you more likely to endorse and display the qualities of your company’s brand. In basic terms that argument goes like this:
Internal social media networks allow high level management to “get down with the kids” on the shop floor level, by posting regular updates and having on-stream salons to discuss employee issues. The thing is, this pre-supposes two things I’m not sure you can second guess so thoroughly –
1) That employees in the company are happy and
2) That they’ll tell the truth when given the chance to complain.
In other words, social media involvement by companies in this kind of way is only as good as the reliability of employee endorsement. In my experience, not many employees within a given company are that loyal, or indeed that bothered – they just want to do their job and earn their wage without too much hassle.
So that’s the con side of the same argument. But what about the way in which social media as a public facing tool can change the way companies work internally? Surely that’s where social media has a real effect on the internal culture of a business?
One thing the social media does for everyone is make their lives more transparent. As soon as you start posting on social media streams, everything you say and do becomes visible to your entire social network – and is of course enshrined forever in archives too. So people can go back and look at how you respond to customer complaints – and the whole of your company’s social network, which should normally include as many of your customers as possible, can see in real time how you are responding to an issue.
A lot of companies have been guilty in the past of running scared from social networks for this very reason. When something goes wrong it goes wrong publically and in an achievable fashion. But here’s the thing. We all expect our service providers to mess up at some point. What we want is to see how they respond to that mess. If they do it well then they get our respect and by extension our loyalty.
The culture of avoidance in customer service issues has run deep throughout corporate culture for a long time – normally engendered by employees who, as noted, just want to be left alone to do a job and draw a salary. But if you use social media to display the inner workings of your customer service team’s responses, there’s nowhere to hide. And so the social media makes your customer services team buck up its ideas – or move on to pastures new.