Destination Engage Serialisation - Part 3: Social media moves

26 July 2022

Earlier this year Engage CEO Phil Wedgwood released his book ‘Destination Engage’ – weaving the evolution of both engagement theory and practice with the company’s parallel development and his own breakneck ride through business life.,

Over the summer we’re serialising the book and showcasing some of the tech and the thinking that are shaping how organisations approach both internal and external engagement.

In part 3, we pick up on the story of the development of Social Media for Business, or SM4B for short, harnessing for the first time all the power of social inside a business. But what happened next?

Part 3: Social media moves

Until 2020, SM4B consisted of tools that mirrored the social media stalwarts, the most stand-out being the Facebook-style feed and WhatsApp-esque group messaging channels. They allowed a limited degree of those classic social behaviours – commenting, sharing and liking – by employees when reacting to content put out by their employer. Being instant and easy, the set-up encouraged news and information to be spread faster and further; more two-way dialogue and interactivity between the centre and the edge; and it allowed both a quicker reading and more detailed analysis of sentiment and mood. But its enduring value was in being that reliable ‘go-to’ place to keep your finger on the pulse, and basically to receive rather than give.

S3In 2020, we launched an updated version of SM4B, with a new feature – what we refer to as ‘social posting’. For the first time, we were wholly emulating consumer platforms as everyone in the business could (if permissioned) now post in their own right and build their own followings. We’d had conversations with a few clients who were keen for their internal comms to break free of the convention of just ‘broadcasting’ via the feed. Even though the feed allowed that social interactivity of sharing, liking and commenting, it still fell short of everyone being able to contribute, and developing their own voice; something that some organisations felt was essential for deeper engagement and for building stronger – and different – connections.

It was one of those fortuitous moments really as that thinking chimed perfectly with ours – it seemed such an obvious extension of the app’s capabilities, bringing ‘social media for business’ ever closer to its consumer twin and encouraging this ultimate version of personal engagement and expression.

I’ll confess, I was very excited. I get mesmerised by the shiny and the new and I have every model of iPhone to show for it. The social posting capability was shiny and new – but it also had this incredible potential to take engagement to a whole new level. And as I said earlier in the book, technology’s ability to change the game, unlock new worlds and help us envision the ‘art of the possible’, this was my passion. And I got very passionate about it, and I wanted to take it into every boardroom, the proselytiser-in-chief for SM4B Mark 2. 

To give you a better sense of how I felt about it, that this ran far deeper than just having another feature to sell, I’m going to share the transcript of a podcast I put together a few weeks after launch.

Podcast transcript

“Social posting – what do I mean by that? The easiest way to think about it is having within your business the same social networking experience and capabilities as you do in your personal consumer lives – not using public social platforms and apps but your own private, secure, compliant version of these, sitting on the smartphones of every colleague or customer.

Any why does it matter? Think about it. Social media, it’s how we connect with our friends, family, the groups we’re part of. TikTok, WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, they’re all part of our everyday vocabulary, they’re driving ever higher levels of engagement. And, of course, they’re all-powerful mobile apps - we are now a mobile-first nation with around 70% of internet traffic going through the phone - and, pretty much ALL of the social media interaction and engagement is now via the phone too.

So this whole idea of fostering social networks for business has been a major driving force for us here at Engage – we wanted to create the same social network experience so that you could have the same level of engagement with your staff, within the safety of your company.To give every member of the company a voice, to create and share exciting and interesting content, to have new conversations and offer ideas and opinions - just like you do with friends and family.

Think about that in terms of all those micro connections at a human level that transcend company hierarchies, that break down some of the barriers that inevitably occur because of position and seniority or even just physical dislocation. They help build stronger relationships that are not just predicated on work – people naturally connecting with each other, interacting, sharing, supporting, laughing, that’s absolute gold for the collective good, the community spirit, everyone feeling like they’re in it together. That positivity, that sense of being invested in one another, that’s a hugely powerful force – it’s social capital that can drive performance and growth.

The thing is, technically, most companies don’t have the ability to do this – which is exactly why we baked into our colleague engagement app the option for you to create your very own, fully branded social media platform for your business.

And let’s talk for a second about other practical gains. This giving people a voice…again, it’s immeasurably valuable for feedback and improvement and for gauging the temperature of the workforce. Traditionally, employee apps have been focused on broadcasting – the centre to the edge, the one to many. But you only have to look at the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp to know how much richer, more textured, more interesting communications become when we can all talk freely, and just how much relationships can blossom and strengthen when we have the means to talk, chat, swap videos anytime, anyplace.

Now, what’s that I can hear? Ah, it’s the trumpeting of the elephant in the room! It’s blaring on about the risks of giving everyone the ability to say what they like – as in, let staff loose on social media, are you mad?  Trust me, I hear it. I’m having this conversation a lot right now and it’s exactly what’s inspired this podcast. I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing social posting to our own client base based on my own convictions. But there’s hesitancy there. And I do understand why, given some of the less edifying aspects to social media that crop up almost daily in the news outlets.

But the fact is, your staff are probably already having these conversations, or chirping their grievances, or just cultivating friendships – but it’s happening outside of your view, your control, on public platforms and apps. It’s happening in that WhatsApp group, or Facebook page, or community forum. And that’s actually the bigger elephant in the room…it’s such a lost opportunity not to be fostering that social connectivity inside your organisation where you can harness it for the good of everyone and the wider business.

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Richard Clark, the CEO of one of our clients, CFG Law. Now if any organisation was going to be alert to or averse to the risks of social media, you’d think it would be a law firm. But Richard has championed social posting from day one and the firm is my default reference for how it can successfully augment and amplify the ‘standard’ engagement and communication activities. I asked him about the elephant and he didn’t hesitate.

“If you trust someone enough to employ them, then you should trust them to do the right thing for your organisation” 

Yes, trusting people to exercise their power or their freedoms responsibly. If you can’t do that, then you have far more fundamental problems to worry about than unlocking a new feature on the app.”

Destination Engage is available from Amazon in both paperback and eBook formats.



#employee engagement, #social media style platform