Social technologies to improve internal communications

More and more companies start to realize that the philosophy and technologies of social media can improve not only external communication or recruitment. Applied cleverly, social media can take your internal communication, sharing of ideas, collaboration and know-how management to the next level.


At a recent event in Germany where I was invited as a speaker on social media trends, I shared the stage with Christian Buggisch, Director Corporate Publishing of DATEV, and an avid blogger himself. The audience was mainly composed of PR and Marketing Directors of commercial cooperatives of various sizes and in various phases of social media implementation.

DATEV, a cooperative of tax advisors with some 7000 employees, is definitely riding the social media wave in a very successful way. An exciting example of how an organisation – which at first glance wouldn’t necessarily be associated with being at the forefront of social technologies – embraces the power of web 2.0. It is a pretty interesting case study, and I recommend everyone to check out their social profiles and in particular the DATEV blogs (mostly in German, though).

I found quite fascinating that DATEV have decided to implement social mechanisms in their internal communications, too. They use Microsoft Sharepoint to facilitate sharing of ideas, internal messaging and for providing a platform for dialogue with the management. Employees can hand in questions to the management (even in an anonymous way), and then all staff members are invited to vote on the most interesting ones that management will then answer. Every quarter, about 300 questions are submitted, 90% of them by a non-disclosed sender.

Christian Buggisch comments: “The demand for direct exchange with the board members was and is huge, obviously, at a company with 7000 employees. Our tool “Nachgefragt” (“ask here”) satisfies that demand. What I particularly like: “Nachgefragt” doesn’t work in one direction only, it doesn’t stop at providing the employees a direct line to the board. The board themselves gets a first-hand, live impression about what bothers staff members. Thus, “Nachgefragt” serves as a gauge of the company that is not only valuable to the board, but to other managers, too. That is why we recommend all management to check “Nachgefragt” on a regular basis. (…)

Make no mistake: Whoever is on their way towards “New Work” and Enterprise 2.0 will need a strategy and endurance – but they’ll also need the courage to try out things and adjust in the course of time. We have done that with “Nachgefragt” and learned at least one thing: That journey is never boring.

Sharepoint is a very powerful tool that offers all the options for a social-enabled internal communication strategy. However, there are other options as well which may be easier to implement and, thus, will be appealing to smaller companies.

Just to name a few:

  • Internal blogs: At Deutsche Messe, the board members regularly blog about new developments, targets and interesting trends. By applying social technologies, staff can comment and ask questions. This can be easily implemented in the intranet.
  • Wikis: A corporate Wiki ca be used to share knowledge about processes, structures and tools as well as serve as a plattform for discussions and dialogue.
  • Yammer, a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations and business apps. Starting with a free plan, there are different pricing options depending on the size and requirements of the company.
  • Stackfield, a service with end-to-end encryption.
  • Wiggio, a service for group collaboration.
  • Bitrix24, a service to create a social intranet in just a few minutes.
  • Chatter, integrated in Salesforce suite.

To sum it up: Social collaboration is a great way to share knowledge internally – which makes it appealing to event organizers and membership organizations like associations, too.

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