The True Value of Social Engagement
Whatever you think about social media, you can’t deny that it has transformed the way people connect, communicate, and share information.
I’m no social media fan myself, but the fact that I use it every day says everything you need to know about it. I live abroad, and without platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, I wouldn’t have a clue what my friends and family are up to most of the time.
Social media helps me stay in touch – either passively, by reading people’s posts and viewing their pictures, or actively, through instant messaging, comments, or ‘likes’.
This process allows me to stay a part of people’s lives, no matter where I live and what I do – including people I haven’t seen in years, and in some cases even decades!
Beyond friends and family, I can follow what’s happening with my favorite football club, people, and brands. I can find out about upcoming events, and read the breaking news and views from across the world.
We often talk about social media being somewhat shallow and superficial, more a distraction than a serious tool. And to some extent that is true – let’s face it, there’s a lot of rubbish to sift through on most platforms, and the idea of sharing your life online naturally lends itself to narcissism and voyeurism. But at its heart, it is truly utilitarian.
Nothing else can bring us together in such a simple and effective way. Nothing else has the ability to make us feel connected to each other and the world at large. No wonder there are almost 3.5 billion active social media users worldwide.
It comes as no great surprise, then, that forward-thinking companies across the globe are looking to social platforms to engage and connect their workforce – something that is increasingly important in a world where remote teams are on the rise.
Social engagement in action
One such example is Starbucks. The world-famous coffeehouse has almost 30,000 branches worldwide, but without a platform to connect them, teams become closed-off units, separate from one another in everything but brand.
They have solved this problem by adopting a social platform where branch managers can connect, communicate, and share ideas and inspiration. The platform is now used by over 80% of managers, allowing them to work together with peers from across the world to solve problems and improve the customer experience.
Similarly, Volkswagen Ireland found that deploying a social platform has energised and empowered their workforce, with 95% of employees using it to communicate and collaborate. As a result, email usage went down and efficiency went up, as employees sought more direct and effective ways to share ideas.
Outdoor clothing brand Columbia also saw a stark reduction in emails after rolling out a social platform, down 38%. They also enjoyed better event participation, better communication and feedback from remote staff, and a strengthening of the connection between employees and the brand.
In addition to connecting dispersed and remote teams, social platforms are equally effective for office-based staff, who may suffer just as much from siloed information and a lack of communication as their remote counterparts.
Part of a wider solution
As these examples demonstrate, social platforms are powerful tools for boosting employee engagement and collaboration. As we continue to move towards remote and flexible working, you could even argue that they are essential. How else are you going to connect people across teams and locations in a fun and engaging way, and make even remote staff feel part of a wider community?
On top of this, their familiarity and ease of use make adoption simple. Hardly anyone needs training on how to use social or instant messaging apps; they use them every day of their lives.
That said, it is important to recognize that employee engagement is a complex matter, and social platforms alone cannot be expected to fix the issue. If a company with a rotten culture and miserable employees introduce a social platform, their staff may find it easier to share ideas and connect to one another, but they will almost certainly remain unhappy.
As with all technological solutions, social platforms should not be seen as a quick fix or golden ticket to a happy and engaged workforce, but rather as part of a wider engagement strategy that encompasses all aspects of work.
This involves rethinking the way we manage people and performance, the way we structure organizations, the relationship between employees and employers, and the way we leverage the ever-increasing power of technology to our advantage.