Business Boost | 24 February 2017 - by KCOM

Social networking has arrived, in your business

Next-generation social collaboration is here

There are major changes happening in workplace communications right now.

The launch of next generation social collaboration services such as Workplace by Facebook and the Teams platform from Microsoft is helping businesses use internal communications to inform employees and seek out better ways of working on a more regular basis.

A 2016 European Union study confirmed that while the main use of social media in business is still to share news externally and raise brand awareness, it’s increasingly being used to build internal collaboration and boost productivity.

But why are businesses of every size drawn to such new tools over tried and tested email and the traditional phone call? Simply put, it's all about productivity and speed.

We’re seeing forward-thinking businesses moving towards organising work around tasks, becoming more 'agile' in their ways of working. Breaking larger projects into more digestible chunks gives managers more control and helps in setting realistic completion targets.

Yet if this more streamlined way of working is to take off, businesses need access to more ‘agile’ ways of communicating.

Looking back, there have been a number of developments in this space. For example, Microsoft and its Instant Messenger platform changed the way employee’s communicated and allowed for in-house conversations, although this was limited by having nothing lasting on record for future reference and by only being available for 1 to 1 conversations.

Agile ways of working are taking off in business

Since then, we’ve seen the slimmed-down versions of "Business Facebook” appear, such as Yammer and Slack. Over time, these tools have developed to become more visually appealing and mobile-friendly, making them now more worthy of becoming a main communication tool inside a business – so watch this space.

But how do these new communication platforms affect a business? Isn't social networking just using Facebook to share business information, and nothing more? The answer isn't as simple as it seems. The sharing of information has previously been controlled by marketing and PR, but now with the onset of business collaboration tools, every employee can get involved in the debate and offer their insights, positive or negative, as to where things are going well – or badly.

This can throw up pitfalls in its own right. Badly thought out, inappropriate or even defamatory comments left on external or internal social media can cause a headache for employers and quickly destroy a company’s hard-won reputation with the click of a mouse. As such, employers need to have a comprehensive social media policy in place informing employees of their rights and responsibilities as representatives of the company.

However, as long as everyone knows the parameters of the internal social network, it can be a very useful business tool. It could even be argued that encouraging a more personal feel in the workplace builds better relationships between team members. By offering internal social platforms you’ll give staff time to create and collaborate – and in a controlled environment.

But, of course, there’s a limit. Business is business, and as an employee or employer, the information you share should be kept business-like, with perhaps only a hint of the person posting to encourage response and opinion. Sharing inappropriate content like some people do on their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts on an internal business network could land them – and you - in hot water.

So what does the future hold for collaboration?

Currently, it’s growing fast and shows no sign of slowing down. It’s worth staying in touch with this emerging trend to think about how you could use internal social networks to get more connected with colleagues and use their experience for the benefit of your business as a whole.

About the author

Henry Groom is Innovation Lead at KCOM.

With over 20 years’ industry experience in disruptive and emerging technologies he has been able to bring his wealth of experience from the mobile and technology arena to KCOM, to bring innovative, world leading solutions to their customers.

He is passionate about technology and can usually be found speaking or writing to help people and businesses thrive through thought leadership and education.