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Social Media and the New World of Employee Communication

February 8, 2010

From the Recognition Insider Newsletter Spring 2010 Edition

Here’s how you can use today’s rapidly evolving Social Media to enhance your Recognition Program

by Tom Nugent

How powerful is Social Media today, and how effective can it be in helping HR to enhance employee communications and recognition programs?

U.S. marketing executive Bob Thacker was one of the first to ponder how emerging social media could be used to help a business communicate its message. Since then, Web 2.0 applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and proprietary networking applications are becoming more and more important as a component of business communications.

Thacker was the Office Max ad exec behind the popular “Elf Yourself” viral application that spread like wildfire during the holiday shopping season of 2006.

Said Ari Merkin, the creative director at Toy, Inc., one of New York’s most imaginative advertising agencies, “Elf Yourself will be hilarious – it’s the kind of interactive tool that could really help to warm up your brand.”

The results were nothing less than spectacular.

During the next three years, Elf Yourself would draw no fewer than 250 million online visitors, more than 40 percent of whom would later remember that their hilarious fun had been sponsored by OfficeMax. Describing the enormous popularity of the website, Thacker says, “By the end of the first year, we discovered we were using more bandwidth each day than the U.S. Pentagon!”
The wildly successful viral marketing campaign showed how important social media has become as a communications tool in the world of business. “At this point, I don’t think people have even
begun to understand the power of this tool,” Thacker told the Recognition Insider recently. “It’s an active form of communication, not passive, and it’s already changing the way businesses reach their customers.

“Of course, it’s also changing many other types of business communication, including the way managers and workers talk to each other. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Social Media like Facebook and Twitter are going to play a major role in organizational communications during the years ahead. Whether you’re a marketer or a human resources manager, you’re going to need to know how to use these new tools in order to be successful.”

Learning How To Use “Social Media” Tools for Employee Recognition: A Primer

Like marketing guru Bob Thacker at OfficeMax, an ever-growing number of human resources professionals are these days exploring new ways to use social networking (aka Social Media) to rapidly expand and improve their recognition programs.

“Social networks allow information to surface and they let people see what others like them are doing,” says management consultant Paul Hebert, while describing the impact of Social Media on organizational recognition. Adds Hebert, an expert on Internet networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter: “Leveraging social networks is about having a continuous stream of information that [praises] people for hitting targets and trying new ideas.”

So what’s the best way to go about using Social Media to strengthen and speed up your organization’s recognition program? Here are a few tips from the experts:

  • Consider using Facebook to expand the reach of your recognition messages to your people. Example: try posting such messages on your organization’s Facebook page.
  • Why not create a no-cost Twitter account for your organization, then use it to feed messages in quick, real-time bursts (they can’t be longer than 140 characters) that will convey recognition and appreciation with powerful immediacy? Consider tweeting an employee success story each day to build your organization’s culture of daily appreciation.
  • Post letters and notes from your organization’s clients and customers, so that their praise and recognition of your people will be available to all employees.
  • Use YouTube or Flickr to post video and photos of your organization’s recognition events or employee appreciation activities. Your staff will enjoy it, and it could be a powerful recruiting tool for prospective job candidates.
  • In order to add accountability to a social media-style recognition initiative, investigate proprietary recognition platforms that enable businesses to implement interactive recognition within a controlled environment. Programs like the new Give-a-WOW program offer manager-review options, built-in rewards, and managed access.
  • While it’s still true that nothing can take the place of a face-to-face “thank you” (or a handwritten “thank-you” note!), there’s no doubt that you can use these high-speed and remarkably flexible Social Media tools to better accomplish your organization’s overall recognition goals – on a weekly or even a daily basis!


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