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Top 10 Priorities When Creating a Social Environment – #3: Is your social dialogue interesting?

Jim Bowley
on November 20, 2012

When it comes to creating a social environment within your organization, what are the top things HR should consider?  #3: Is the social dialogue interesting?

Your social environment will tell you what’s interesting to people. And social analytics mercilessly show what’s actually interesting to people. But it can do the opposite, too: tell you what isn’t interesting to the social community (and why).

HR professionals can use this information to help their organizations reach out to and hopefully engage employees. This engagement isn’t possible through one-way portals designed for simple “to/from” communications (from the organizations to employees.) Instead, by creating a social format where employees can “talk back” you create a social dialogue and framework that’s interesting.

So, it’s important to make your social dialogue interesting by doing the following:

  1. “Broadcast” News: Share information that qualifies as “news” to its intended audience. Express new ideas that make the social environment a place where interested people can go to learn the latest.
  2. Repetition is Okay, but Change the Message: It’s okay (and probably a good idea) to communicate frequently about key organizational topics because not everyone will pay attention to the first message. But varying the message to avoid repetition (particularly those shared through microblogging) helps make sure people don’t “tune out.”
  3. Understand the Target Audience: Target your audience because not everyone cares about every message. Doing so helps ensure the right and timely message doesn’t get buried in social informational debris.
  4. Understand “Expiration Dates”: Novelty doesn’t last forever and social environments are based on timeliness. Understand that your content has an “expiration date” after which it will not be of interest to the intended population.
  5. Remember it’s a Community Dialogue: The goal is to get people talking for the benefit of the community, so resist the urge to “preach” or “proclaim” versus “sharing” and “fostering” a dialogue. In some cases, an important message may require authority, but even then consider how your message is received within the dialogue “stream” of the community.
  6. Transform and “Socialize” Dry Content: I started my career at Mercer in the Communications practice and had the benefit of mentors who let me in on the secret that HR and benefits content can be personal or incredibly boring. Making the right choice in a social environment may mean the difference between catching people’s intention and driving them away.
  7. Sharing is the Best Endorsement: No matter how good a message or content may be, the win in social setting comes from reactions including “liking” but more important commenting and sharing. No matter how good your message is, it’s the endorsement of influential members of your community (some of whom you may not even know exist yet) that comes from sharing that message that matters most.
  8. Create Moderators-as-Messengers: Some people just know how to do social media correctly and you need those “ambassadors” or “messengers” (or whatever you call them) on your team. Enlist them, give them some ideas of important content, and let them lead the way (through compelling content) to engage other people in the dialogue.
  9. Use Humor: When the subject is appropriate (and when the person sending a microblog Signal actually has a sense of humor) this will be more compelling than the “high seriousness” that too often characterizes organizational communications.
  10. React to the Reactions: It’s about “sharing”: your social community isn’t working until at least as much of the content on your social site is contributed by the community. When good ideas are raised, highlight them. If necessary, take them out of the social environment and communicate them in traditional formats like email to show people what they’re missing. But most of all: the win is people’s contributions, so react, publicize, acknowledge and recirculate the best contributions to help drive better contributions from “in the community” content owners.


Social environments deliver insight and great content surprises once they’re in place, and yours is no exception. To make this work (with the goal “adoption” at the top of the list) it’s important to think about what’s really interesting to your organization. Get it right and you’ll not only gain a deeper level of social collaboration  – you’ll also learn a lot more about the people making those contributions and, as a result, the community as a whole.

>> For the full list of top things HR should consider when it comes to social, see the blog post: “Top Ten Things HR Should Think About and Do When Creating a Social Environment.” Stay tuned to the Peoplefluent Blog as we continue to dive into the rest of these questions in more detail.

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