Workplace by Facebook: The Internal Comms story

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In our first post on Workplace by Facebook, Sharon shared a whistle-stop tour of the basics of the system. It’ll be very familiar – it’s the Facebook system that 1.5billion of us use regularly, but filled with the enterprise content and, eventually, apps. So let’s take a look at what that might mean for internal communicators.

The Internal Comms channel matrix

Internal communicators have a range of channels through which they can reach their audiences:

  1. Traditional: Newsletters, posters, magazines – the printed word onto paper
  2. Face-to-face: Corporate town halls, conferences, site briefings, meetings
  3. Digital: Intranets, enterprise social networks, signage and more

Take a look at the excellent Elements of IC channel matrix (developed by ICology and Alive with Ideas) for a more detailed summary of the tools available. Is Workplace an intranet replacement or does it have its own entry in the channel matrix?

Workplace: the intranet killer?

Oh, the poor intranet! Every year, it’s killed off by one technology (or expert) or another. We don’t believe that Workplace is “intraneticide” either. Just as Facebook hasn’t replaced websites, it won’t replace content and transactional intranets anytime soon but we believe it could significantly change the way you publish, share and communicate at work, just as it’s done for external communication.

So what does change?

Workplace will force internal communicators to change the way they work. Out goes news stories published on a homepage or news carousel and in come wall posts; images and video, not internal news. This makes quite a significant number of changes:

Communications will succeed or fail on the strength of the content. There are options to boost content from leadership, but there’s no editable homepage on which to put must-read stories.

Messages will have to shrink. Just think about the posts that you read on Facebook – short posts win. TL;DR won’t work for internal communicators. The optimum length of a Facebook post is 40 characters, — probably a twentieth of the size of an internal news article — and a growing body of evidence shows the longer a post, the less likely people are to engage with it. You’re going to need to be concise.

Each message will need to go out from a person as there aren’t options for anonymous news publishing. Leaders and communications teams will need to get comfortable with messages going out in their name, and there will be a ‘personality’ behind the story. Print journalists love the byline but many internal communicators have hidden behind anonymity. Time to go public.

Internal communicators are now competing with  an entire organisation of publishers. The homepage was the sole preserve of the communications team but the wall is everyone’s. How will employees know the real news from the fake? How will they understand what’s important? We think there may be a need for verified news and readily identifiable trusted sources.

Internal communicators will need to learn how to turn their messages into “thumb stopping content” in order to quickly grab attention in the feed. For too long, internal communicators have pushed out content and have hoped or expected it to be read but they won’t get this luxury in a wall. Content will have to sing, be relevant, be interesting, quirky, valuable, helpful. In short, it will have to be all the things that employees want. It will have to be all the things that IC professionals think it already is, but frankly is not. There’s a horrible reality gap in IC and Workplace will make it obvious. If it isn’t employee friendly, it won’t get shared and will quickly disappear down the wall.

Internal communicators will need digital marketing guidance to help them transfer from homepage to wall and all that that will bring. Digital marketeers know how this space works and have been building their brands using the Facebook platform for years – expertise that can be leveraged for new purpose.

Will Workplace work?

Yes, absolutely – it could be one of the best new channels to come to internal communications for many years but it’s not a straight replacement for other tools in the armoury. That also means that there are new rules to learn, new content to develop and new ways of working.



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