Author(s), Title and Publication

Ewing, M., Men, L. R., & O’Neil, J. (2019). Using social media to engage employees: Insights from internal communication managers. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 13(2), 110-132.


Internal social media has emerged as the new frontier for internal communicators to achieve long-term organizational goals, including engaging employees. Previous research suggests that utilizing internal social media enhances conversations across corporate departments, regions, and hierarchical levels, fosters social capital among employees, and facilitates knowledge sharing, collaboration, and communication between employees and management. This study explored the role of internal social media in engaging employees and presented best practices for organizations to build an engaged workforce through internal social media. Specifically, the authors asked the following key questions: 1) How do internal communication practitioners understand employee engagement? 2) What communication channels and social media platforms are used to engage employees? Why are these channels and platforms selected? 3) How does internal social media engage employees? 4) How do communication practitioners effectively use internal social media to improve employee communication and engagement? and 5) How will internal communication evolve around internal social media?

The authors conducted 27 in-depth interviews with experienced internal communication practitioners and found that 1) the majority of the interviewees believe that engaged employees connect to the value and purpose of their company, are attentive to company goings-on, demonstrate passion and pride, and are empowered and involved in organizational activities. Additionally, the authors found that 2) electronic, interpersonal, and social media are used by organizations to fulfill different end goals. Enterprise social media and mobile apps are favored by organizations. 3) Internal social media can engage employees through building connections and fostering collaborations among employees. Employees feel empowered by and attached to their organizations by generating content and voicing opinions on internal social media. 4) Training should be in place so that employees know what is appropriate or not appropriate to post. Additionally, leadership needs to show active involvement on internal social media. 5) Finally, empowering employees to participate in internal social media and advocate for organizations can enhance their engagement. Internal communication will become more conversational, dialogical, humanized, and digitized in the future.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) use a variety of internal channels to engage employees, 2) view employees as active co-creators of meaning, 3) encourage leaders to actively listen and respond to employees’ comments and suggestions on internal social media, 4) encourage employees to share knowledge, expertise, and personal views via internal social media, and 5) provide clear policies regarding internal social media posting.

Location of Article

This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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