Rally the troops with your own social media site

Rally the troops with your own social media site

Rally the troops with your own social media site

In 2006, when Facebook was only just gaining traction outside universities, Best Buy launched Blue Shirt Nation – a social media site for employees. Originally planned as a research tool, workers embraced it as a place to share stories and ideas. Best Buy discovered it had passionate people working in store who would share their enthusiasm online. It’s been used as a way to find promotional ideas.

So how can you apply Best Buy’s success to your business?

“If you have an internal blog or an internal system it would encourage peer-to-peer support,” says Sidneyeve Matrix, associate professor of Media and Film at Queen's University. “It also might show them opportunities for where they could move in the company, and it might make them more visible to the C-suite.”

That’s exactly what happened for Nick Pfeizer, a Best Buy employee and veteran gamer who found himself flown to head office to pitch an innovative idea for how the company could sell computer games after writing a post on Blue Shirt Nation. That kind of connection also makes executives seem more accessible and transparent, rather than the distant managers that frontline staff might never see.

And for organizations trying to cope with the changing demands of younger workers, there are ways to socialize feedback on these sites.

“Younger employees want a lot of face time or communication, they’re used to that,” Matrix says. “Those kinds of networks of feedback would be in real time so you’re not waiting until it’s time for a review. It’s ‘formative feedback’ so you can change your behaviour.”

Employers are often concerned that an open forum will become a complaints board, which is unlikely to improve morale and engagement. A minority view can end up amplified if their message ends up overwhelming message boards. Matrix says any system needs to be managed and monitored with a social media policy.

One of the designers behind Blue Shirt Nation, Steve Bendt, says that for the most part the community moderates itself.

“The fear factor that so many executives seem to have with open forums did not materialize on Blue Shirt Nation,” explains Bendt. “We put the responsibility on the community and said ‘listen, don’t be stupid and take care of each other.’”

Instead the company found that some passionate employees took on a mentoring and inspiration role, sharing their energy with coworkers across the country.

An important starting point is to have a content strategy. How will you get people to participate?

“You might say we’re going to take pictures at company events or we’ll interview some customers and we’re going to show employees we’re going to show employees they make a difference,” Matrix says. “Have a content strategy for how you’re going to represent the culture of the organization internally.”


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