Five tips for starting (and managing) an internal LinkedIn group
As public relations consultants, we know the opportunities for brands to engage with key audiences using social media. And many of our tools and tactics revolve around reaching our external audiences.
Most often, we use sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to connect the brands we work with to current and potential customers, media contacts and industry professionals. But what potential does social media offer for brands to engage with internal audiences?
Many companies have employees and representatives that are spread across a region, the country or internationally. In-person meetings are rare, and individuals must rely on e-mail and phone communication to interact. Connecting with multiple individuals is cumbersome, and there’s no great way to collaborate with peers facing similar questions or challenges.
Enter social media. Several networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, offer the option to host groups for collaboration. Groups are most often public and center around common industries. However, secure groups are a good avenue to connect a employees to their company and one another.
We’ve successfully launched several private LinkedIn groups for our clients. Based on our experiences with the network, here are five tips for starting – and managing – an internal network for your brand.
- Identify a need. Ask your company’s employees what challenges they face with one another. Do sales reps want a better way to share success stories? Does the customer service department want a system to collaborate on answers to common questions? Do employees want a new way to receive updates from corporate? If the responses you receive indicate a need for a common forum, an online group could be a solution. (Note: LinkedIn may not be the best host. Find which site your employees use the most, and build your group there.)
- Make it secure. Chances are, your internal group will host conversations not appropriate for the whole Internet to see. LinkedIn allows groups to be secure, meaning only individuals that request to join can view and participate in conversations. The creator of the group can accept these requests and police membership regularly.
- Plan topics. Your LinkedIn group will likely serve two general purposes – to relay messages from the corporate team and facilitate interactions among employees. As the PR counsel, your role will be to plan topics that will inform members and jump start conversations. Much like your external social media strategy, an editorial calendar can help you organize and plan content.
- Get people on board. The adage “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply here. While your internal group may be great in theory, it won’t be a beneficial tool if employees don’t join. Make sure to spread the word through in-person, phone and email communication to educate internal teams on the new forum and answer questions. Once launched, send out reminders to individuals who haven’t joined.
- Ask for feedback. As with any communication tool you implement, the best way to make sure your group stays useful is to survey members. If discussions are infrequent or if membership is dwindling, find out from employees how the group can be more relevant as a part of their jobs. The goal should be focused on improving communication, not forcing a shiny new tool.
I’m curious to hear about other PR and communications professionals’ experiences using social media for internal collaboration. Besides LinkedIn groups, what other options are available to facilitate interaction online?