As internal social media (ISM) becomes more prevalent in the workplace, how is this impacting employee engagement? We believe creating communities of employees within your enterprise and communicating with them using social media tools is an important element in building and empowering engaged employees.

APCO studies and works with clients on employee engagement. Our research indicates that several factors contribute to engaged employees. Foremost is that the executive team supports and lives the enterprise’s values. Engaged employees seek organizations where they feel comfortable sharing information and ideas, where executive communication is open and honest and where they have the information necessary to do their jobs.

These factors can be incorporated into an enterprise’s internal communication, community building and ISM plans.

Drawing on our employee engagement research and internal communication best practices, we developed a list of attributes of ISM. Using factor analysis, our ISM Model isolated 21 discrete attributes that characterize the best programs, which in turn combine to form the three major factors that employees look for when deciding whether their company has effective social media internally. Our research finds that Quality of Content is the most important aspect of ISM (42 percent importance to the model), followed closely by Engagement & Dialogue (37 percent); Optimization trails in importance (21 percent). Click here for a downloadable image of the below information. 

ism optimization
  • Ensures that all of its content is accurate and reliable
  • Ensures its Intranet and its social media integrations are easy-to-use
  • Posts content that is interesting and valuable to the user
  • Ensures content is readily accessible and easy to find
  • Develops visually appealing online designs
  • Consistently updates and keeps content fresh on all social media platforms
  • Offers content that is easily shareable
  • Provides its users with access to exclusive content or information online
ism engagement
  • Establishes open dialogues with employees
  • Regularly solicits feedback and criticism from employees
  • Invites employees to interact with each other
  • Encourages employee participation on the social networks it operates
  • Uses social media to mobilize its employees to engage in offline activities
  • Has a visible and active CEO or senior leadership presence online
ism quality
  • Uses a targeted social media approach to reach different types of people
  • Makes use of the most relevant, popular and trend-setting social media platforms
  • Has links to each of its social media platforms on the home page of its Intranet
  • Actively engages users through the use of several social media or interactive platforms
  • Integrates its content throughout all of its social media platforms
  • Is willing to take risks to try new and innovative social media strategies that enhance the user experience
  • Has a committed team of company ambassadors that participate online and act as the face of the company

Enterprises that apply this framework as a diagnostic tool to assess the needs and guide how they design the overall ISM system as well as how they get buy-in from employees, which facilitates usage and engagement.

From surveys we know that employees highly value ISM as a tool for collaboration. Like other forms of engagement, ISM helps employees feel connected to each other and the company. Quality of content and engagement & dialogue align well with the factors that explain why employees feel confident and engaged. Using ISM provides employees with the information they need to do their work and a connection to executives. Moreover, younger, tech-savvy employees are comfortable using social media tools and employees with whom we have spoken view favorably the use of ISM.

Our research indicates that ISM has the potential to ease collaboration, make employees feel closer to their employers, aid in employee recruitment and retention, and engage employees who can become brand ambassadors. We see positive correlation between effective use of ISM and employee confidence, employee connection to their employer and a feeling that their employer cares about them.

ISM engagement

Done well, internal social media is one of many tools that can help strengthen employee confidence, commitment and engagement. What’s your plan to take advantage of this opportunity?

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Bill Dalbec

Bill Dalbec, senior director of APCO Insight in Washington, D.C., provides opinion research, message development and strategic communication services. Read More