This summary is provided by the IPR Street Team based on the original study, “Examining the Effects of Internal Social Media Usage on Employee Engagement” by Linjuan Rita Men, Julie O’Neil, and Michele Ewing in Public Relations Review.

Social media has long been touted as the ideal way for organizations to communicate with external audiences. But what about communication within the organization? Dr. Linjuan Rita Men and colleagues explored how the relationship between employer and employee changes as people’s use of company’s internal social media increases.

What is internal social media?
Internal social media is the use of social media to spread an organization’s mission through interactions between employees and between the organization and its employees. It can come in two forms:

1. Enterprise social media, is social media custom built for organizational communication. For example, Facebook Workplace and Yammer are applications that remotely connect organizations with features such as being able to message anyone in a user’s organization or sharing posts with coworkers.

2. Popular social media networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, where posts are shared to both the organization and to the public. This is the more common form, as it is inexpensive and employees are already familiar with these networks.

Internal social media facilitates horizontal and vertical communication across organizations remotely. By posting, streaming, commenting and messaging, employees can strengthen existing relationships and form new ones. Workplace ideas and knowledge can be quickly spread to improve the efficiency of the organization.

The goal of internal networks is to increase employees who are engaged, defined as “employees who are connected to the values and mission of the company, feel empowered, bring energy, passion, and discretionary effort to their jobs, and serve as advocates.”

A 2018 Gallup Poll found that organizations with highly engaged employees have “substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.”

Researchers polled 1,150 employees in a representative sample across age groups, genders and corporation sector and size. The study used a seven-point Likert scale from 1 (strongly agree) to 7 (strongly disagree) to measure employees’ feelings on internal social media, organizational motivations and transparency, their own identification with their organization and their engagement with their organization. Employees’ use of internal social media was analyzed using questions on how much they consumed (reading posts), contributed (sharing posts) and conversed (engaged one-on-one with coworkers).

Key Findings

  • The more employees use internal social media, the more they feel engaged and the more transparent they perceive their organization to be.
  • Employees’ use of internal social media positively influences organization identification.
  • When employees believe that their organization is willing to disclose truthful and complete information, they are more likely to identify with the organization.
  • When employees believe that their organization cares about employees’ opinions and need for information, they are more likely to identify with the organization.

Implications for the Industry
This study strongly suggests that organizations should explore internal social media to strengthen its relationship with or between its employees. Frequent use is key to internal social media’s success. Companies should teach employees how to use the network while encouraging them to post both personal and work-related ideas.

An active, welcoming and fun community helps employees feel like they belong, fostering attachment to the organization and to coworkers. Encouraging organizational leaders to interact with employees’ posts and comments can help employees feel that their voice is heard. A social media policy is recommended but be sure to avoid censorship. The policy should reduce risk without discouraging open communications.

Meagan DiPolo is a member of the IPR Street Team. She studies public relations and political science and minors in event management at the University of Florida.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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