6 Tips to Transition Your Company Publication into an Employee Community


It marks the end of an era. After decades of publication, C-suite executives have decided to cease the printing of your organization's company magazine as they launch an employee community.

You’re not quite sure how you feel about it. The company magazine has been viewed as an industry symbol and incarnation of the business for as long as you can remember. You’ve worked hard to plan, write, edit and paginate the publication each month, and there’s nothing like the smell of fresh print when the magazine is delivered from the plant. Part of you feels like donning a black veil and calling around to schedule a proper burial service.

Mourn not, internal communications pro. It’s time to admit it. There is another part of you that feels strangely liberated. This is an exciting opportunity to start something fresh, and unbound by the constraints of print.

Not sure where to start? Translating your existing internal communications into your employee community isn’t as daunting as you think.

Take inventory

Unless your publication recently was revamped, chances are that you’re not over the moon for every standing feature that’s included in each publication. Do you dread writing a certain piece each month because it’s just not exciting? Chances are, if you think it’s boring, your audience will, too. Before deciding whether or not to translate this content into your employee community, ask yourself, “WGAS,” or “Who Gives A S***.” (Shout out to my favorite journalism professor for evangelizing this acronym to her student editors.)

Ideally, you keep a log of responses and feedback to printed content in each issue in a spreadsheet or similar format. If you still have a few issues to go before the publication is put to bed for good, now is a good time to start one. Note the influx of emails you received about your last “From the Tech Desk” feature regarding a new innovation. Record the letters to the editor thanking you for featuring a late longtime employee who made a significant impact. These are signs that this content is resonating with employees, and should be translated - in some manner - into your employee community.

Once you identify key themes, consider whether they warrant group creation. If employee recognition is a popular topic, for example, consider partnering with human resources and the employee recognition team to transition existing programs onto the platform.

Examine existing communications strategy

To be frank, internal company magazines are hierarchical, by nature. Use this change in medium to examine your corporate communications strategy and whether it truly promotes a positive, open culture. (The answer is likely "no," if your main means of employee communication are magazines and newsletters.) You could be missing out on a chance to foster a more productive workforce.

Instead of ghostwriting a monthly “From the CEO” feature, consider hosting a live blog or live video, if available on the platform, for example. Invite employees to submit questions to the executive to foster a more transparent culture, and give them more ownership.

Consider your audience

Print is great for long-form content, but this type of post to your employee community likely isn’t the best way to capture the attention, unless employees already are snuggled up on the couch with a carton of ice cream before bed. People are inherently egotistical; according to a 2015 study from Microsoft Corp., the average attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

Before posting content within the community, ask yourself:

1.     What is the purpose of sharing this content?

2.     To who will be of the most value?

3.     How might I best capture their attention?

These questions should not only inspire where you're posting content, but the type of elements you decide to include (photo, poll, live video, etc.)

Balance the "broccoli" and "ice cream"

As an internal communications pro, you know that not all announcements are "fun." Try to strike a balance between giving your community "broccoli," or necessary information that might not be particularly exciting (shareholder information, for example), and "ice cream," more exciting content (like crowdsourcing polls). 

Create a daily marketing strategy to foster employee engagement and more frequent return visits. Balance planned, timely posts in your content calendar with organic, user-generated content.

Keep your print archive close

Just because executives have given future print publications the boot doesn’t mean you should kick your archived copies to the curb. Use your archives to your advantage. Sometimes the most engaging content stems from nostalgia. As cliche as it sounds, the past helps to give perspective to the present and future. 

Keep your digital analytics closer

One of the key benefits of transitioning your employee magazine into the digital space is having greater insight into what resonates with your audience. Use your platform's native analytics or go deeper with an integration, like SWOOP Analytics, to analyze top posts. Where do they originate? Who is posting them? What makes them so interesting? Consider using a top post as inspiration for your content marketing plan, boost a valuable post in an "All Company" group, or provide an "official" response to a trending thread to help bring context.

Is a former print feature not garnering the desired engagement within the community? Consider revamping it to target a different audience, or slashing it altogether to help focus efforts elsewhere.

Amanda Whitesell, a community manager for Talk Social To Me, has experience consulting newsroom leaders across Michigan in digital audience development and social media. As a former journalist, her content has appeared in USA Today, Detroit Free Press and Lansing State Journal.

Enterprise Social Network Rollouts, Language, and Culture, Oh My!

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain

It’s exciting to introduce an enterprise social network (ESN)! It’s also very common to start by planning a giant, one-time event. But enterprise social networks, while often guided by the same people leading other company-wide initiatives, are inherently different and there are many reasons why the correct sequence of events and use of language is critical. ESNs are relationship tools for your employees. Like those work relationships, employee networks can go on forever and they are central your company’s strategy with regard to its top asset:  its people.  

To prove value back to the business and to the employees who use it, an ESN requires the gradual steps of a crawl-stand-walk-run methodology. How else would you approach the Yellow Brick Road? The most compelling thing about any ESN is a sense of shared purpose derived from the people who are participating. People and human nature require time to build trust and create motivation. This is done by making the network an important tool that grows in value as it reaches the hands of more and more of its intended users. Gradual introductions, steps on a journey to the Emerald City are a better approach.

A Brick by Brick Approach

We’re not advocating spending years rolling out your community and collaboration program. We are, however, recommending that you take a set of measured steps that build on each other in a sequence that makes sense. Here’s an example introduction plan for a 10,000-person network:

  • SAS, a business analytics software company, deployed Socialcast for their ESN to over 70% of the company in just a few months. SAS employees experienced faster access to information and better ways to be connected to key information because the ESN connected people across the globe to each other. Employees were happier to be able to help customers more quickly (and this increased customer satisfaction).
  • In a second example, a Fortune 100 health and wellness company migrated their ESN platform from SharePoint to Jive over a 12-week period. Talk Social to Me helped the company to segment and prioritize its rollout. Programs were launched to teach high-touch users to migrate their own content and an embedded community manager trained, onboarded and facilitated users and ambassadors resulting in a network of 16,000 users and 375 groups.

Introducing an ESN in Waves is a Surer Road to Travel

SWOOP Analytics, a behavioral analytics company, has been mapping organizational networks for over 10 years. They caution companies against using only growth and engagement metrics in their enterprise social networks. These measures work in the early phases but do not actually quantify the value being created. In employee networks, value creation comes through collaboration, empowerment and relationships.

In a 2016 SWOOP report analyzing data from 16 Yammer communities, they compared gradual vs. all-at-once community introductions. 

3 key patterns were found:


In the Classic Yammer introduction pattern above, the shift from free to paid use of Yammer was accompanied by an influx of more resources to drive engagement. After a certain point, new adoption flatlined.  

  • Due to recent changes at Microsoft made since the SWOOP research was published, Yammer is now bundled into other enterprise software options. However, getting users to adopt it still requires investments in community management and strategy.

In a second Yammer Hype Curve pattern (named by Gartner Group), engagement decline followed a big all-at-once introduction. Gartner calls this big decline the “Trough of Disillusionment.” SWOOP also noticed that with this method, companies had inflated expectations of growth because of the deep investment by leaders in this “big introduction.” Disillusion is a good name for what Dorothy went through each time as she and her traveling companions asked the Wizard of Oz for his help.  

In the third Yammer Launch Pad pattern, the Trough continued to be present, but recovery from it was aided by new energy infused from the successive groups coming into the network. Gradual introduction brings the crests and troughs of engagement together in one place where you can create a sea of change as groups are cresting and falling all in one place. With this third pattern, Yammer awareness was stronger for a longer period in the minds of company leaders. Keep knocking on the doors to Oz.

Position Community in Perpetuity, Believe in Oz Like Dorothy

The language of how a social network is introduced needs to be nuanced. Unless you have generous, creative people who don’t mind investing time and energy into something that’s labelled an experiment, don’t call your community introduction (to just that early first group of users, right? Right.) a “pilot” or a “trial.”

Find other terms (and plan a gradual rollout to accompany these) that position your network to those first invited as an exclusive experience. Couple a community’s introduction with a very specific purpose (like shifting the work on special initiative being worked on by two teams) to infuse a sense of necessity and usefulness. Combining these elements will create positive first impressions, including a sense of good planning rather than engagement for engagement’s sake. As groups are invited in waves, observe patterns of uptake. How do groups in one part of the business respond as opposed to others? With each new group, you can iterate and better align to company culture.

  • As Phillips prepared to launch their Socialcast ESN, they discovered a pre-existing ESN with more than 1,000 users. These enthusiastic early users were moved to the new solution and their direct engagement and experience, having already having used a similar solution, helped shape and nuance the rest of the company being brought into the new Socialcast site.

There’s No Place Like a Valued Enterprise Social Network

Dorothy was wearing the Ruby Slippers even as she sought help from the Wizard of Oz. She had the capability to go home at any time, but she didn’t know how to tap that power until she made the effort to see and give the Wizard what he wanted. Your social network is also a learning journey. Target the most pertinent use cases and don’t be afraid to start small. Initial wins are your tools to support the long game as your forge your path toward measuring value instead of engagement.

Rachel Medanic, a community manager for Talk Social To Me, is an online community, content and social enthusiast. She's worked with Cisco, Intuit and startup companies on their community and audience relationships. As a child, Rachel did not own any Ruby Slippers, but she does remember being fond of a pair of red Garanimals.


The Hunt for Employee Happiness


#WOL? What is all the buzz this week about “WOL?” It’s World of Leopards week, don’t you know. And for leopards, apparently Slack is the collaboration tool of choice (see :24 into the video). Avoid those pesky animal-to-animal encounters:

You caught us! #WOL and #WOLweek in the enterprise have, in fact, nothing to do with a Facebook leopard enthusiast group. #WOL is an acronym for "Working Out Loud." According to Dion Hinchcliffe, Working Out Loud “Is perhaps the most fundamental digital workplace skill." As this week’s final celebration for International Working Out Loud (#WOL) Week, Talk Social To Me is continuing to demystify the concept, created by John Stepper.

Earlier this week, we shared a video about what WOL means. Working Out Loud is a different approach to behaviors and relationships that you can use to grow and nurture your employee community. In this post, we’ll focus on the beneficial behaviors that your employees experience by working out loud:

Practice. Trust. Comfort. Evoke.

These are not always easy for employees, however. Getting people started on the WOL path requires trust and lots of practice, says James Tyer of SWOOP Analytics. Tyer shares stories of and some of the evocative questions that he used to get WOL started in a Yammer environment. Once trust and participant comfort is established, imagine how powerful it is to have a safe place for people to ask and answer even more open-ended questions that Tyer uses:

  • What is a challenge you can't solve alone?
  • What work system or process frustrates you and you wish you could change - and how?

Notice the focus of the second question is on systems and processes, not people? That’s a great approach to managing the risk and fear of WOL. If an employee is hesitant to discuss challenges and relationships openly, give them the opportunity to narrate about something safe. This will build comfort for deeper sharing in the future.

Areas of Opportunity + Challenge for WOL in the Enterprise

WOL can lead to employee-originated innovation, but getting it established and helping it grow beyond small teams will be a path that quickly encounters trouble from organizational structures and hierarchy. In researching informal networks in the enterprise, Harvard Business Review found potential for innovation existed in employee communication channels that were not formalized. They found that active shaping and cultivation of those networks by companies would produce innovations vs. letting social networks grow without structure. These findings are areas of opportunity for WOL to be used in combination with human social networks: harness organic innovation by facilitating the practice of Working Out Loud amongst members of these networks.

Managers, on the other hand can present micro-level obstacles to the success of WOL. A 2015 study by Gallup showed that 50% of employees leave their companies sometime in their career because of a bad boss. Conversely, managers can be key enablers for WOL. In these examples, managers can help model generosity, amplify to make their team members’ efforts visible, best enable purposeful discovery, and model a growth mindset for others around them (hopefully inside an active enterprise social network).

Who #WOL'd It Best?

With as much fun as we've poked a International WOL Week, we hope you've found the series valuable and inspiring. We want to know - which WOL is your style? Are you a World of Leopards person, or do you prefer the fuzzy softness of Shetland Wool Week? Maybe riding the Wheels of Love?

Thanks for sharing our Working Out Loud journey with the Talk Social to Me team. Happy collaborating!


Celebrating #WOL and Women of Leisure

As we sashay right into our first day of #WOLweek, we celebrate those ladies who best embrace living the #WOL lifestyle: bon bons in the morning, a cocktail at mid-day, and a bit of afternoon sun by the pool. It's high time that we properly acknowledge all of the women and their leisurely activities that sparked the powerful global social media trend called #WOLweek. Won't you join us in the festivities?

"But wait," you might be thinking right now. "It's Women of Leisure week? Is that what all of this #WOL chatter is about? That can't be."

Migrating from Jive to Yammer

Every few months, new shiny chat-apps and social technologies roar onto the enterprise collaboration scene. They force a lot of tough choices when it comes to determining the right mix in your collaboration landscape: how do you combine legacy toolsets, evolving use cases and micro-purpose apps brought into the mix by employees? It’s no wonder that companies often find themselves questioning whether they are using the right tools, the best combination of tools, and even switching between tools on a fairly regular basis. The employee collaboration experience is ever-changing, which makes our jobs as technologists and community managers a constant work-in-progress.

Making the Switch from Jive to Workplace by Facebook

With the recent acquisition of Jive Software by ESW Capital and the Aurea family of companies, Talk Social to Me has fielded many calls from companies who are wondering if they should consider changing vendors when their contracts are up. We love Jive's product and especially its people, who are some of the best collaboration pros in the industry. But we also are acutely aware of what happens during an acquisition, and we realize that many decisions are now out of the hands of the Jive team that we know and trust.

14 Hacks to Reverse Employee Community Engagement Decline

Does your company have an employee community or enterprise social network that is seeing a decline in engagement? Engagement decline is a serious problem that community managers have the power to address (or prevent if your community isn’t yet introduced!). Whether your engagement decline happens in the first two weeks or the first 100 days, it’s an early warning signal that you have more work to do to make the community indispensable for employees.

SBH Health System Employee Community Transformed with Workplace by Facebook

SBH Health System Employee Community Transformed with Workplace by Facebook

In healthcare making a difference for one person has network effects. For SBH Health System (SBH) in the Bronx, New York, implementing a Workplace by Facebook online employee community has produced several benefits for the hospital. In just 4 months the online community has...

Best Practices for Employee Communities in Highly Regulated Industries

Best Practices for Employee Communities in Highly Regulated Industries

If you’re launching or (or possibly already have) an employee community in a highly-regulated industry, the myriad regulations that concern your leadership are definitely challenges. But even in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, or education, employee communities are still viable.

Upcoming Webinars: How to Measure Behavior in Your Enterprise Social Network

Upcoming Webinars: How to Measure Behavior in Your Enterprise Social Network

If you’re running your company’s enterprise social network (ESN), you will inevitably be asked about the success of the platform—are people using it? How often and what for? What value are we really getting out of this thing, anyway?

How White Labs Uses Workplace by Facebook During Company Expansion

How White Labs Uses Workplace by Facebook During Company Expansion

Whether it’s introducing a new product, conducting an acquisition or expanding a brand’s footprint, it’s not rare for companies to experience growing pains. White Labs, an international yeast fermentation company based in San Diego, is no exception.

Introduce Working Out Loud in Your Employee Community

Introduce Working Out Loud in Your Employee Community

Have you seen people online talking about “Working Out Loud?” Maybe you’ve stumbled across a hashtag such as #WOL. What is Working Out Loud, anyway?

A concept originally created by author John Stepper, WOL is building meaningful relationships with others based on generosity and shared purpose. In short – the idea is to give your time and energy to others openly, without expecting anything in return.

One Surefire Way to Drive Engagement in an Employee Community: Take an Idea and Make it Happen

Ok, senior leaders. This one’s for you.

We get a lot of questions about how to drive engagement in a company’s enterprise social network. Companies put a lot of work into building fancy launch campaigns, creating fun reward programs for Champions, and printing posters about the benefits of the online employee community. These activities are valuable, and they create excitement, and they signal that the collaboration party is getting started.

However, there's a better way to foster the long-term adoption of and engagement in your community, and it doesn't involve a team of designers or event planners. Ready for it?

A Facebook at Work Progress Report: How It's Changed and Where It Fits

The past nine months have felt like a lifetime in the social software industry. 

We've seen customer communities slip away, new features introduced and removed, and partnerships grow between unicorns and legacy vendors. 

With that in mind, I wanted to revisit some concerns and predictions I made last year in a three-part review of Facebook at Work.

Much has improved with the product during this time, while some elements have remained the same. The product still needs work — what product doesn't? However, I believe it has made significant progress in becoming a viable enterprise-ready community platform, especially given the deprecation of human-centric capabilities in the competition.

From Idea to Action: Accountability for Innovation in your Employee Community

Have you ever posted an idea in your employee community or enterprise social network, only to see it get lots of "likes" and "great idea!" comments...without further action?

Without a formal innovation program, amazing ideas posted in a social network can quickly become a graveyard of lifeless words. According to HBR, "when left unmanaged, informal networks tend to inhibit innovation more often than they enable it."

Salesforce Lightning Bolt and the Accidental Community Manager

Last week, Salesforce.com announced a new online community framework, Lightning Bolt, which essentially allows customers to pick and choose only the most relevant features when creating an industry-specific online community of employees or customers. Building on pre-existing templates from Salesforce, customers and third party developers can now stand up instant, purpose-built communities designed to create engagement and action around a distinct and specialized topic, product, or industry.