Enhancing organizational communication and collaboration using social media

Social media provides value to companies because it better leverages their most valuable resource: their workforce. Employees’ knowledge, experience, and talent are often underutilized in large organizations because they are lost when a workforce is dispersed over functional areas, departments, and the globe.

Many of the challenges faced at a departmental level, where corporate objectives are executed, could be solved with information or talent held by someone in a different area of the company. Because of the organization’s size, employees commonly are unaware that others in the company have already discovered a solution to their problem. While the top management does serve as a conduit among corporate divisions, they would soon become overloaded if they were expected to serve as a knowledge broker among divisions. Thus, valuable information lies dormant at the lower levels of the hierarchy.

Consider the example of a leading online retail store where we interviewed departmental heads from multiple sites. During one interview, we learned that a team in apparel was struggling with an algorithm to improve the personalization of consumers’ online searches. It just so happens that we had also interviewed a team from a different department and site that had solved that exact challenge. Once we pointed this out, the apparel team was able to save valuable time and resources because they did not have to reinvent the algorithm. If we had not happened to be interviewing the two teams, this connection would never have been made. Unfortunately, this disconnect is very common in large, dispersed organizations.


Most businesses today use social media to enhance their competitive advantage, usually via branding and marketing. But some companies have recognized the full power of social media and are using it to improve communication within their organization. When done right, social media can enhance workforce collaboration, increase organizational efficiency, and reduce expenses. In this paper we review the business value of social media and describe why social media is fundamentally changing organizational communication, collaboration, and efficiency. We also discuss the key organizational components needed for a social-media initiative to thrive and identify the potential risks associated with using social media in the business setting.


There are also many forms of synchronous groupware available to support a wide variety of activities, including shared whiteboards, online chat, electronic meeting system, and, of course, video communication systems. An electronic meeting system is a sophisticated software tool used to help group members solve problems and make decisions through lnteractive structured processes such as electronic idea generation, idea evaluation and voting.

The decision to use social media in the business setting despite potential risks is similar to the decision businesses once faced about using the Internet. As with social media, the Internet poses many risks, such as phishing, spam, or malware. Today corporations recognize the threats associated with their employees’ use of the Internet, but they find a way to mitigate them because it is too costly to not use the Internet. This realization - to move forward despite the threats -- has spawned a new industry of Internet protection. Likewise, corporate adoption of social media will generate a market for products that minimize social-media threats. The corporate march toward social-media communication will happen.

The question is whether companies choose to be early adopters, which comes with advantages but also risks, or to enter at the tail end, which offers fewer advantages and risks.

Whether companies realize it or not, social media is creating a silent crisis for them, with both

opportunities and dangers. Businesses that successfully transition to social organizations will have a

competitive advantage over those that do not. More and more companies are learning how to make this transition and how to safeguard against potential risks. Furthermore, new organizations, often led by millennials, are emerging from the start as social organizations, as their younger leaders and workforce have intuitively incorporated this competitive advantage into their structure.