Social media—Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and more—is an important aspect of professional communications. Organizations may issue phones for work, maintain internal blogs for newsletter items and/or employee recognition, maintain internal Facebook pages, and more. “Social Media Proves to Boost Employee Engagement,” according to an article in Forbes; organizations are increasingly recognizing that social media provide easy-to-use, inclusive methods of communication in which all employees can share information and observations, test out ideas, and follow trends and developments in the workplace.
Organizations use social media for external communications as well, since Twitter, Facebook, and other media enable the organization to personalize customer experiences, gather feedback and data from customers, and thus hone their goods and services. Most social media for external communications is used for marketing purposes:
- to increase awareness of services and products to market
- to engage customers, often with respect to service issues or problems
- to encourage a “buzz” of interest around a company, its product(s), or its service(s)
No matter whether social media is used for employees or customers or both, it’s likely that you will need to use some form of social media professionally, as part of your group or organization. The following diagram shows monthly active users on popular social media sites. If you search the internet, you’ll find statistics on the number of new users added to various sites every day.
Pros and Cons of Common Social Media Sites
Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are four of the most common social media sites. Facebook, which supports text, images, video and audio files, and links, offers a lot of flexibility. Snapchat and Instagram support conversation around images. Twitter supports brief text with images and video, while YouTube is exclusively video with the option for comment and conversation, controlled by the person who posts the video. Each platform offers benefits and concerns when used professionally for internal and external communication.
|Massive general audience; allows for private and secret groups appropriate to internal organizational communications||Concerns over misuse of data|
|Well-developed ad and messaging options||Younger demographics find it outdated|
|Various features and methods to create and disseminate communications||So much messaging may hide/weaken the uniqueness of your message|
|Snapchat, Instagram||Image-based content is very accessible||Image-based content can limit the type of message communicated|
|Easy integration with other media||Tends to attract a younger user base|
|Good design||Some limitations on messages (e.g., video length)|
|Simple and easy to use||Largely centered on personal brand promotion|
|Relatively large usage||More manual work to integrate with other social media platforms|
|Ability to link by theme with hashtags (#) and to follow authors (@)||Has so much content your message may get lost|
|YouTube||Ease of use||Data capturing and privacy concerns|
|Integration with other social media and websites||Sheer size and volume of content requires careful placement|
|Massive audience||Creating videos requires unique skill and tools when compared to business writing|
Content for Social Media
Social media supports creativity and flexibility in content, simply because it’s so inclusive, with text, image, audio, video, and the opportunity to interact. Product sites for Pampers and REI (an outdoor recreational retailer), for example, engage participants with personal stories and images, as opposed to selling their products more directly, while other sites such as Dove and Starbucks focus on social concepts (inclusiveness, community). The following offers an overview of The Nine Compositional Modes for Social Media, which identifies different types of information for social media, no matter what the format is for the post. (Even though this is a sales video, the information is useful.)
Social Media Do’s and Don’ts
- Although social media seems more personal and less formal than other media, remember that if used professionally, you need to do a situational analysis and take as much care with brief, informal posts as you take with longer, more formal reports or proposals.
- Review before posting. Ask yourself if what you wrote or said, or if the video or image you posted, is appropriate to be read or viewed by anyone, internal or external to the organization.
- Maintain your professionalism at all times. Express ideas calmly and with reason, and use images that will not offend.
- Comply with posting requirements of each medium. (e.g., Twitter uses # to categorize or tag information and @ before names, and is restricted in the number of characters you can type.)
- For text, avoid abbreviations as much as possible, spell out words, and review posts to revise language before sending.
- Do not post or engage in any inflammatory discussions. Honor others’ viewpoints and their right to them even if you do not agree. Do not use all caps, as that connotes anger.
- Do not respond one way on one medium and another way on another. Remember that digital information is easily accessed and that it persists, so make sure that all posts are equally professional in nature and that they all maintain a consistent professional voice and persona. This applies to using social media personally as well as professionally, as potential employers may very well research your personal sites.
- Even in a medium characterized by immediacy, don’t reply immediately. Instead, give yourself time to consider your content before posting.
 Kallas, Priit. “Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites and Apps [July 2018].” Dreamgrow. July 3 2018. Web. July 10, 2018.