7 Shifts: The Future of Social Media and Internal Communications


Melcrum recently released a report on How to use social media to solve critical communication issues, with as usual some great case studies and many practical insights. Go to the report website for a full overview and executive summary.

I was asked to write the closing section in the report, on The Future of Social Media and Internal Communications. Below is my article in full. If you’re interested in the topic also see my recent Thoughts on the future of workplace communications.

The Future of Social Media and Internal Communications

Organisations achieve their objectives by bringing together the talent and energy of many people. As such, the raft of emerging communications platforms today have the potential to literally transform how organizations work. From the 1990s, email fundamentally changed how most jobs were done. Now a wealth of new communication tools are being used to create sometimes dramatically different ways of working.

Based on the rapid emergence of social media and other new communication platforms, there are seven key aspects to how organisational communication will change.

1. Organisations will diverge widely in how they communicate.

The most important implication of the rise of social media is that companies will increasingly diverge in how they communicate internally. Many companies will continue for years to come to work very similarly to how they have in the past, relying on intranet-style document repositories and email. Others will rapidly adopt a wide array of social media tools, and in the process create substantially different work processes and environments. There will be no unity in communication trends; organisations will increasingly differ in how they work.

2. Email use will be eroded by social media.

Those companies that use social media the most effectively will substantially reduce email communication. Projects will shift into dedicated online spaces with alerts for relevant updates. Google Wave or its successors will create new formats for interaction that transcend email. A key question will be whether email and other communications forms will reside in the same or separate interfaces.

3. Conversational channels will flourish.

A smaller proportion of companies will find that micro-blogging and status updates provide a very effective way of communicating on some tasks, given that many of their staff are familiar with tools such as Twitter and Facebook. The uptake of conversational channels will be mainly in smaller groups driven by function, location or team membership, rather than uniformly across organisations.

4. Social search will drive value.

The promise of social search will finally bear fruit, with for once enterprise technology moving ahead of consumer tech. Rich profiling of users, what they are working on, what they are searching for, and what they are finding useful in their tasks will drive highly contextual and relevant results, including selective context-based push of information.

5. Network analysis will drive performance.

For sophisticated organisations, social network analysis is the tool that offers the greatest insights into which interventions will best drive increased performance. As an increasing proportion of communication shifts to digital channels, the availability of data will enable these approaches to be applied far more broadly than in the past.

6. Virtual meetings will become immersive.

As virtual work rises, the demands on teleconferencing and virtual meetings will rise. Multiple formats including video, screen sharing, voting, gesture recognition and quasi-3D will generate richer interaction. There will be a rapid increase in avatar based worlds and meetings as these provide a more immersive experience, though for some time yet only by a minority of organisations.

7. Work will transcend organisational boundaries.

As companies virtualise, using workers and contractors around the world, work processes will be designed to be used equally well by people both inside and outside the organisation. Sophisticated permissioning templates and security measures will make it easy to invite business partners and suppliers to participate in business processes and communication platforms.

As a result of these trends, organisations’ divergence in their pace of uptake of new communication tools will also reflect a divergence in performance. Those companies that effectively tap the potential of social media will move far ahead of those that are slower adopters.

Ross Dawson is Chairman of international consulting firm Advanced Human Technologies and author of books including Implementing Enterprise 2.0. His blog Trends in the Living Networks is ranked as on the top business blogs in the world.