The modern media landscape has made change more of a constant than an exception. Communication is the key to successful change and, in today’s world, the impact of social media as a part of that process cannot be overlooked, given its integration into people’s lives.
A survey cited by the Harvard Business Review shows the average American spends just under three hours on social media every day. This makes social media an ideal space for communication—according to a study by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, 55 percent of employees said they wished their employer had communicated more over social and digital media during times of change. By contrast, only 42 percent reported wanting more face-to-face communication.
Level The Playing Field
When those at the top do not communicate effectively during times of change rumors and gossip ensue, explains an article on the blog for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology). Human beings like to understand why things are happening—why new leadership was brought in or a station sale is planned, for example—and in the absence of such explanations they’ll always try to fill in the gaps, even if they end up using stories that aren’t entirely true. Social media can be a perfect tool for combating that tendency, thanks to its ability to disseminate information broadly in large organizations. It gives those with their boots on the ground direct access to the decision-makers at the top.
Let Them be Heard!
The real impact of social media is that it’s more than a one-way communication tool. In his seminal work, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni points out that people don’t have to see their ideas implemented before they buy into a decision. They just have to know their ideas have been heard, considered, and explained within the decision’s context.
That means you must give your constituents a genuine dialogue through which they can ask questions and offer feedback. Say your company is dealing with a merger or taking on new technology like programmatic media planning. Your employees may be concerned about how this may impact their current workflow. And therein lies the real impact of social media—as a two-way tool that allows you to communicate relevant information in a transparent manner AND engage in a dialogue about it.
Yes, it takes dedicated effort to communicate with employees. But think of how many problems you can head off at the pass. Change efforts in organizations fail because leaders do not take time for the dialogue necessary to build alignment and gain buy-in. A little conversation up front saves considerable time and money overall.
Pick The Best Tool for Your Company Culture
When considering which social media tools to use for communication, it’s important to remember there’s no universally right answer. Instead, there’s a question: What are your stakeholders already using? If they’re on Facebook, use a private group that only your team can access. The same strategy will work for LinkedIn. If your employees use Slack in their day-to-days, create a channel specific to your initiative.
The only wrong answer would be to force your stakeholders to adopt a tool they’re not currently using—that would simply add more to their plates. You’ll want your communications to easily integrate into the current workflow.
Above all, communication via social media demands authenticity, especially for the media industry. If you’re delivering canned, scripted answers written by a public-relations professional to every question, your people will figure it out and cease to engage with you. (Or it could even turn them against you!)
Be human. Be vulnerable. Be genuine. With so much change constantly bombarding your employees in this field, your consistently informative and authentic tone will make them feel secure. You’ll never be able to give everyone what they want, but if they feel you’ve at least made the effort to meet them where they are, you’ll have accomplished your goal.