Beware Social Media Peddlers

The original tweets - Beware Social Media PeddlersBeware of social media firms that try to shove internal communication professionals back into the dark ages!

These firms may know something about technology, but seem to know little to nothing about managing internal communication to improve business results.

They apparently are unaware that the most significant trend in internal communication management today is the shift from producing activity to creating results and value; that communication practitioners are moving from cost centers to value creators.

Most of the social media crowd seem glued to whatever is digitized rather than whatever moves the numbers. A key leader of a social media firm told me recently: “We aren’t trying to help our clients improve results. We’re trying to sell them more software.”

Internal communication professionals are managing communication as a system, not just a collection of ineffectual channels that have little to no impact on the business.

They’re improving stuff that matters to shareholders, customers and their business leaders. Their focus has been elevated from click-through, tweets and re-tweets, to actual business measures such as quality, service delivery, productivity, costs and cycle time, to name only a few.

These internal communication professionals understand that communication itself represents all the ways we send, receive and process information and that leaders, not tweets, are the most powerful communication source.

By managing communication as a system, they’re addressing communication breakdowns such as slow moving, inaccurate, and non-existent information that represent a huge source of under-performance. And they’re building competencies in areas like business, finance, leadership development and change management—internal communication management that goes far beyond SOS (sending out stuff).

Beware Outdated Data

A San Francisco-based social media firm claims to have studied communication best practices. They recently distributed a document about those alleged best practices. I say alleged because its focus resembles internal communication work that was performed in the 1970’s.  Back then, the focus was on getting information out via formal channels. The only difference between then and now is digitization. I know because I was there.

Here’s an example of what this social media firm believes represents employee engagement best practices.

“Strive to have at least five communicators regularly contributing to your communication plan,” the best practices document told us. “This ensures you have enough regular content to engage your audience.”

First of all, these are employees and team members who we’re trying to help achieve business results that exceed that of our competitors, not a random audience at the local movie theater! Second, engagement requires far more than regular content. It requires four things that the social media firm may not be familiar with:

  • Creating line of sight between what people do and the results they can influence.
  • Providing autonomy that enables people to make decisions that influence their work.
  • Distributing the right information at the right time so people can make the right decisions and take the right actions to improve the business and
  • Understanding “what’s in it for me,” so people understand why it’s in their best interests to help the business succeed.

That’s a tad bit more complicated than having “five communicators regularly contributing to a communication plan.” Business can be complicated sometimes.

Here’s another gem.

“Overall click-through rates are higher when content is published on a weekly basis into channels with personalized content.”

Click-through rates mean absolutely nothing to most business leaders. Here’s what matters:

  • Communication practitioners at a major shipper increased export sales by 23 percent while generating a 1,447 percent return on investment.
  • At a large logistics company, communication practitioners improved quality by 65 percent while improving productivity by 16 percent.
  • Communication practitioners at a manufacturer improved productivity by 9 percent while reducing OSHA recordables by 82 percent.

What do click-through rates have to do with managing communication to create measurable results and value? Nothing, of course.

So, why fret over something that doesn’t really matter.

Customers don’t care about your click-through activity. They do care about on-time delivery of the products they ordered.

Click-through rates aren’t what shareholders care about. They care about getting big returns on their investments.

Employees don’t care about click-through either. But they do care about having the information they need when they need it to make decisions and take actions that create results that help them and their organization win.

KEY TAKEAWAY:  Want to really make an impact as an internal communication professional?  Focus your communication results on measures that matter to your business leaders, like reducing accident rates, increasing sales, and improving quality, and forget about software programs that track the number of clicks on your social media content.


  1. There’s always someone selling snake oil. Cheap and easy way to protect yourself is to keep asking ‘why?’. If you can’t get answers like the great outcomes you highlighted then you’re clear about the value not added.

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