McCann Analyst Research

I’ve written extensively over the past several years about the dominant role video has assumed in consumer-facing communications. But is the same thing happening in corporate communications? Are emojis, video stories, and social conversations taking over from often-impenetrable jargon, and if so, what does this mean for the future of internal communications — and indeed for the future of corporate hierarchies?

It’s already well understood that humans absorb visual communications much better than screeds of written directives. So it would seem to be a given that visual and social media in employee communications could become a powerful tool to deepen employee engagement when implemented carefully.

I believe that, if done correctly, applying social media strategies to internal communications can have a dramatic and positive effect on employee engagement and productivity. Here’s how I see social thinking bringing corporate communications out of the dark ages and into the light.

Giving Employees a Voice

An active social media environment inside the company gives employees a platform that’s outside the “box” of their cubicles, teams, and departments. It offers them an avenue to celebrate their organization, express appreciation of a company event, or share those little random successes during the day that make their work rewarding. Of course, social media work in both directions, so employees also get access to a new source of engaging and exciting content to share, as well as a feedback channel through which they can voice their opinions and ideas for the organization.

Creating Consumer-like Experiences for Employees

It makes sense to implement consumer-type strategies for internal communications — after all, employees are the internal consumers of the organization’s outputs. Every employee in the organization contributes something to the brand’s unique personality, which those employees transmit onwards though their Instagram or Twitter accounts (think Etihad or du). They become the customers and fans of their brand.

Edelman Dabo’s Instagram Page

There’s an added bonus for employees in moving to a more social style of workplace communication. Social means connections, collaboration, and an all-round deeper engagement in the microcosm that is the organization. And that’s leading naturally to employees feeling more comfortable communicating — and doing so in their own unique style and tone. It’s actually making a big contribution to teamwork and to more-rounded brand personalities.

Visual Makes a Difference

The transition to more informal internal communications has already started, with collaborative tools like Slack and Hipchat leading the charge. But with more casual communication comes a greater risk of being misunderstood — and that’s where visual communication comes in. It’s particularly handy for applying context and tone to a message.

Slack Interface

Trying to explain something that’s happening on a screen using written text can be extremely time consuming and is frequently not terribly effective at articulating exactly what you’re seeing. In this instance, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Visual communications can save a tremendous amount of time and energy and get your message across more accurately.

Corporate Communication Gets Social

Of course, it’s hard to address any aspect of social communication without considering Facebook, and so it’s no surprise that Facebook at Work, along with Slack, are two of the leading contenders for the corporate communications crown.

Facebook at Work is a version of the social network that can be used only within a company’s internal IT systems — personal Facebook accounts are maintained in separate silos, similarly to corporate and personal Gmail accounts. This “corporate” version looks very much like the familiar consumer product, with status updates, shared videos and articles, and event hosting, but it’s more about project updates and brand stories than holiday photos and cat memes.

Edelman APACMEA Facebook At Work

Julien Codorniou, chief strategist behind the Facebook at Work project, has said that “a more connected workplace is a more productive workplace. We want to do that for everyone in the company — from the CEO to the latest new employee at a retail store.” Slack CEO Stuart Butterfield is expecting to see employees connecting with other employees, customers, and partners as those employees are empowered to “bring their whole selves to work”.

Even the more traditional messaging platforms like Lync and Yammer are shifting their emphasis. Both are embedding visual language like emojis, pictures, and video as integral elements to their platforms.

All the evidence is pointing to a future of true work-based social collaboration. One that blends words and pictures, stories and videos, to create a brand ecosystem that operates just as widely within the organization as without. As always I would love your thoughts and feedback on this latest noodling….please share your comments below!