Sunday, 28 June 2015

The importance of LinkedIn for Internal Communicators

True to the need of navigating a digital business environment, the internal communicator's skill set has been evolving to strategically ensuring new ways of interacting through social media. But the role, while far more recognised than previous years, still contains gaps, according to people who have followed the evolution of the discipline closely over the last decade.

Some professionals may still wonder why they need to be looking outside their our own discipline and organisation's walls. But Chuck Gose, STRATACACHE's VP and co-founder of IndySM, believes that it is time for a full discussion to be held about the importance of external social media sites such as LinkedIn for Internal Communicators. And indeed, he offers proposals worth considering.

I met with Gose at the IABC World Conference to explore the opportunities given to internal communicators by LinkedIn. In this interview he shares advice on how to make the most of the social network, the relevance of owning your professional profile and the human nature of social interactions.

Gloria Lombardi: Nearly every internal communicator has a LinkedIn profile. But, you claim, just a few take full advantage of the social network. What are professionals missing? 

Chuck Gose: Many communicators think of LinkedIn back when it first came out - just as an online resume. Whereas, the site has made great advancements as an overall social network.

Some professionals still believe that only HR people and recruiters can benefit from it - indeed, they use it as they have learned how to take advantage of all the information available there.

But, internal communicators should be equally social on LinkedIn; they can have access to information that they would never find elsewhere. For example, becoming more aware of their peers in different companies and what other organisations that face similar challenges are doing.

LinkedIn is a chance for them to learn from each other.

GL: How can we encourage more internal communicators to use LinkedIn, and think that it is not a 'waste of their time'?

CG: LinkedIn gives internal communicators the opportunity to set the tone in terms of what they can bring to their organisation. Yet, I do often hear complaints from professionals saying 'Well, I don't have the time'.

The thing is, we have all the same amount of time; it is about how we choose to spend it. What I am trying to explain to professionals is that there is tremendous value in using LinkedIn. But, just anything in life, there are two keys to success: interest and effort.

If you are interested but you don't put any effort you are not going to be successful. If you put many efforts, but you are not really interested, you are not going to be successful.

With LinkedIn, most probably internal communicators have already set up their profile. Why don't taking advantage of that? Searching for people is a big part of what we do today. When someone searches for you on Google, what do they find? Even if you have a common name your LinkedIn profile comes up immediately.

The good news is that you can control what people find out. If what they see is boring or out of date, there will be a negative reflection on you. In contrast, if what they see is interesting, visual and engaging - all things you can easily do with your own profile today - they will make a different idea about you.

I can see that maybe, someone like an engineer in a construction plant may struggle - not that they cannot have an amazing profile though; it may not just be their natural ability to put their career into words.

But if you think about it, internal communicators are communicators - they should be able to write very clear, concise and compelling content. Ultimately, that is what people should be able to read when they go to their profile.

GL: Beside the relevant reputation management issue, could you give me other concrete examples of how internal communicators can make the most of LinkedIn?

CG: Different activities. It could be reading news - the content on LinkedIn is always very timely and updated; participating in groups; checking your requests to connect with peers; and even endorsing and writing recommendations for somebody.

But if there is one activity where I would like to see more internal communicators involved, then it is the publishing side. The platform is their chance to share ideas, which are immediately found through Google, and build an audience outside their own organisation'.

Some of the controversial topics about LinkedIn publishing tool were about the fact that many people already operate through their own blogs. Concerns were about duplicating content. But, while there may be some extra work, you are exposing your content to a brand new audience. People who would have never seen your blog can now see your content on LinkedIn. And, you can be creative and drive traffic back to your personal blog by adding at a link at the bottom of your LinkedIn post. To be fair, it should be a natural storytelling mechanism for communicators.

GL: What else about publishing?

CG: Internal communicators who publish content on LinkedIn don't have necessarily to write about their company's internal communications. It could about sharing their own personal observations such as on a conference they have attended.

And, it takes confidence, what I would like to see more of from this profession. LinkedIn is very transparent and wide open. Everyone sees who comments on your posts. You may receive some criticism and that is fine - as a communicator, you should be happy to respond and debate that criticism.

GL: You also have something to say about requesting to connect. 

CG: Yes. I would like to see more professionals getting rid of the default language - 'I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn' - when asking someone to connect. To me, that is a very low barrier to send a request to connect. It is obvious that they have not gone the effort.

I joke that someone should write instead: "Sorry, I was too lazy to write anything."

Even if you write "Hey, let's connect!" that is going to be better than some default language.

GL: You make the point that on LinkedIn, employees can become not only advocates for the company but also for themselves. Could you tell me more?

CK: Much of today's LinkedIn content is around company pages - the value of having your staff being the advocates for the business is great. But, employees have also the chance to become advocates for themselves by sharing their accomplishments and keeping them under their profile for anybody to see.

And, it comes across as human; it's you. You have none who polishes or edits your content as it may happen in a corporate environment.

GL: One more proof that social media can give power to the individual. 

CG: It is individual first, that's right. Within reasons, you should try to connect with as many people as possible. If you meet someone at a conference connect with him or her on LinkedIn immediately.
Also, it is not about where that person is now - in terms of company and position - but where they might be one day. Some people can say: "Why should I connect with them? They are only in X position."

But they are 'only in X position' today. You don't know where they are going to be in a year, two-year, or five-year time.

Plus, professionals change their work contacts as frequently as they change jobs. With LinkedIn, once you have that connection, you can always reach out to each other despite of all the developments in your career. Because you are not relying on work emails but your personal profile those connections keep seamless.

GL: What's your final advice to internal communicators when it comes to LinkedIn groups? 

CG: More could be done in this space. Many professionals like to complain that there is a lot of spam in groups or that nobody is participating. Probably there is some truth in that.

Yet, saying that in those forums there is no activity is just fingers pointing. If you want activity, go there and be active! You don't have to wait for other people to be the instigators; you can be the instigator.

The most worthwhile groups are usually well moderated, with a lot of quality participation where people ask great questions and get great answers from their peers. That is the whole point of groups.

For an internal communicator, your LinkedIn groups don't have necessarily be Internal Comms related. For example, professionals can join Universities or industry market groups. Also, there are communities based on age or geography. So, there are many ways to use groups, which actually create relevant conversations for you.

But again, you have to personally invest the time, play with it, test it and figure out what it can do for you. As with any other social media tool, if you don't experiment with LinkedIn personally, it can be very hard to use it professionally - it is not going to be natural; you are not going to grow and become an active participant.

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate