Twitter as an employee communications tool – really?

Twitter is a much covered communications tool that has seen a massive growth in users..and press coverage in recent months.

There is little doubt that it is an important communications tool but is it really the next big thing for internal communicators?  The short answer is NO.

Effective employee communication is about providing context.  How much context is possible in 140 characters? Research shows that the vast majority of tweets are right up there at 139 or 140 characters demonstrating that most people are trying to squash their message into the maximum allowed space.

Don’t believe the hype.  Some technology organisations are promoting case studies about how they have used Twitter as a tool to build staff engagement.  Take the time to lift the lid on the numbers and you’ll find that the uptake is around 1 to 2% of staff – Pretty poor for a ‘game changing’ internal communications tool.

Useless, unless employees are there.  Twitter is an opt-in messaging system.  Once an employee has set up an account, they then have to follow your internal communications tweets…which brings us to our next point:

Engaging content. For Twitter, or indeed Yammer, to be successful as an internal communications tool, you need to have a stream of regular engaging content that staff will take the time to follow.  Many organisations struggle to find interesting content for internal blogs…  Twitter presents even more of a content challenge.

Message approval.  Depending on the type of organization you work for, you may be struggling with message approval processes around certain types of internal communications.  The issue escalates with Twitter which is in the public domain. Yes, internal communications should be open, some organizations are better than others at this, but there is a certain amount of fear that needs to be managed for Twitter to be successful as an employee communications channel.

Twitter is a ‘social communications’ tool.  Many staff may not want to blur the boundary between work and their social lives.  They could choose to create extra profiles on Twitter i.e. one for work and one for social, but this adds another potentially off putting step.

Inane chatter and spam can dilute the cut through for important messages and cause those employees who have opted in to stop listening.

Not everyone in the organisation is a digital immigrant.  Our workforce may be made up of a range of demographics.  Enterprise RSS is on shaky ground in many organisations due to low opt in amongst staff.  Twitter can be scarier as staff need to ‘put themselves online’ which can be unnerving and off putting for some staff.

Perhaps a better way is to send short scrolling news feeds to targeted staff computers.  This allows you to send ‘Tweet like’ messages out to employees in a secure format that doesn’t require staff to opt in.

Formats like news feeds allow you to initiate conversations and maintain direct interaction with staff.  For example with a CEO news feeds containing Twitter like updates.

Author: Sarah Perry