The government of the small town of Jun, Spain once relied on written reports for residents' complaints. A filed request would work its way up the official channels, often costing time and money, until it fell into the right person's hands. Jun (pronounced "hoon")--like many organizations stuck using outdated procedures, needed a more efficient solution. They found it using just 140 characters.
Recently dubbed "the Spanish town that runs on Twitter" byThe New York Times, Jun uses the social media channel to maintain communication between public officials and the town's nearly 3,700 residents on matters from public maintenance requests to safety alerts. The shift to social media has established greater transparency within the community, the Times reports.
Some businesses have begun to embrace Twitter for their internal communications as well. UPS, for example, uses the platform to stay connected with regional branches and to recognize employee accomplishments. But it may be a viable option for smaller businesses as well, says Jeff Keener, UPS's vice president of employee communications. Follow his five tips on the best ways to use Twitter to stay in touch with your employees.
1. Determine what's not working
E-newsletters that don't get clicks, company update emails being sent straight to the trash--it's easy to tell when your internal communication channels have become outdated. Unhappy with UPS's channels, Keener began looking for ways to enhance the company's system. "It was obvious we needed to wipe our minds of what an internal channel is or should be," he says. "Most importantly, we needed to be where employees were." After researching various communication methods, Keener and his team created UPSers, a Twitter account specifically for employees.
2. Establish a purpose
When creating a private Twitter account for employees, you want to always have a mission in mind. Is it meant to inform employees of industry news? Is it to build company morale by recognizing employee efforts? Keener warns it's important to be specific about how you intend to use the account. "Ours is for employee engagement, not convincing employees of anything," he says, referring to more policy-driven internal channels. "Be intentional about that because if you are going to try to convince people, you need to be ready for those who disagree."
3. Take advantage of hashtags
Nothing generates traction quite like a hashtag. Invite employees to join in on conversations by encouraging the use of a specific one. With community involvement at the core of UPS's mission, the company developed a #UPSvolunteer campaign to create conversation. "Employees are extremely proud of the work they do in the community," Keener says. "It's only natural that they want to share those things socially, so we give them the opportunity." Hashtags can also be a great tool for leading company discussions or gathering feedback.
4. Share internal news
To truly engage employees, your Twitter account should provide a service. Notifying staff members of an upcoming event or recognizing company accomplishments shows that there's a benefit to following the account. Posting staff stories not only builds community within the brand, but it also stands the chance of being seen--better yet, shared--outside your account (if it's set to public). Even if your company isn't saving lives, its internal news could have viral potential.
5. Value the transparency
Though privacy settings are available, some critics still argue that Twitter's transparency and lack of group features make it a questionable internal communication source. But the town of Jun has found that such a transparent, platform provides a great opportunity to connect officials with residents. The same is possible in business, especially for large or multi-regional teams. "When you can have the president of senior operations retweet things from an employee, it's great," says Keener, who encourages all UPS regional offices to create Twitter accounts. "No question we'd recommend it."