Internal/Employee Communications and Social Media

Posted by Suzanne Hopkins @suzhopkins, Apr 27, 2011

We’ve recently started to integrate social media into our internal communications mix. One of the challenges I’m focused on now is how to best drive employee audiences to these new communication channels. Once employees get there, they love the content, but widespread awareness of these new communication tools is a challenge–especially with frontline clinical staff and physicians. Email and intranet “teaser” links have been effective, but I’d love to hear what your hospital/organization has done to generate some buzz and interest in the use of these tools internally.

What kinds of tools are you using internally? A blog? Or are you talking about enticing employees to visit external sites where you have a page, like Facebook?


I’ve seen Facebook and Twitter accounts link to each other so that you get visibility via other social media that way. If you’re using multiple kinds of social media, make sure they point to each other?


Also, I remember how IBM Think Bank used to post an IBM employee ID number somewhere in their newsletter, with a reward given to that employee if he found it and claimed it. It had the effect of getting people to read the whole newsletter.


Good morning Suzanne,
What an exciting topic – impressed that you are proactively driving employees to your public social sites! That is a great public acknowledgement that you trust and value your employees.

When we first got started with our social media effort, we realized anecdotally that most of our “fans” were employees. Like your folks, they seemed to like the content and space. We started quietly rewarding employees with an trinket from our marketing closet and an anonymous note.

For example: someone would post a comment on our wall and we’d interoffice them a paper weight or vase with a note that said “thank you for the world-class comment on our facebook wall!”

The idea was that it encouraged the behavior and gave it an official acknowledgment as being ok, permissible. Then someone else could ask them how they got the snazzy paper weight or whatever and they’d say ‘oh, I got it for being a friend of the company on facebook!’ …. so it make a kind of viral connection between the real world and the online world. Keeping the notes anonymous gave it an air of mystique, which may not be appropriate in every case.

We still randomly send things out, although the frequency has diminished.

Good luck and keep us posted!


One last note – we also had some business cards printed with a sort of clever math equation.
Our logo + facebook F + twitter T = GoodSharing (our blog, which links to facebook and twitter)

The thought was to place them in public areas and employee spaces. We decided that was against our signography standards…I still like the idea thought if we can figure out a way that does work in our policy. It is again something tangible in the real world to link to the virtual world.


Great ideas, Nick! We also created some bookmarks with our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog URL and our Facebook, Twitter, etc. to distribute to staff, so they could in turn give to patients they thought would be interested. I don’t think we’ve applied this as well as we could, and this conversation makes me want to revisit that.


A few thoughts: First, I haven’t started trying to drive employee traffic to our public sites because social media sites are still blocked internally. That is the first hurdle to get past.

We are providing business cards to employees with the URLs of five of our national programs on the back and encouraging people to hand out these cards.

I’ve also started using tracking codes in my emails. So, while my email signature says http://www.chc1.com it actually takes people to http://www.chc1.com/?utm_source=aldon&utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=email and I can track how many people come to the website in response to my emails. I use this to track both internal and external visits.

We’re also starting to use QR codes in some of our printed material and I’m spending time getting people aquainted with QR Codes.

The one place where I am being more outgoing in trying to get employees to interact on social media is LinkedIn.

I look forward to other thoughts and comments.


Wow! Thanks to all for your great responses and insights. To help clarify some of the questions that came up, I’m primarily responsible for internal employee communications around some clinical and cultural initiatives that we’ve implemented in our region, which includes 7 hospitals. The social channels I referenced include 3 blogs which reside on our intranet(SharePoint)and are not public facing. We’ve introduced social/interactive tools internally to help reinforce our commitment to creating transparency and open communication about patient care and safety within and across patient care units, and to (ideally) help spread patient care best practices throughout our region. (Silo busters! : ) )

One of the challenges is the fact that our intranet is not accessible to employees from home, so it doesn’t really provide employees with 24/7 access. Oftentimes, bedside staff simply don’t have the time (or feel guilty) to log on and read blog posts and watch videos while they’re at work. I think that will change as we continue to provide helpful content/resources and foster a culture that understands the value of these tools internally. I love the business cards, bookmarks and trinkets ideas to help create a link between the real world and virtual world. My mind is swirling with ideas!

Also, I should note…on the public facing side, our system has a robust social media presence and, as some have noted, many of our biggest fans are employees! Thanks again…I look forward to continuing the conversation.



One tool that has worked very effectively for us in our internal communication is our “flickr” photo site. It is not blocked because not many staff that have their own site.

We post event photos, such as employee of the month, introduce new equipment and new staff, highlight staff accomplishments, patient/provider images such as first baby of the year, progress on our new hospital; anything that tells a story with an image and brief text description.

We send an email to “everyone” when images are posted.
New postings of between 10-20 images bring up to 1,000 hits over a 24 hour period, most from staff. Often, we hear from external partners when they are in the image.

We link the flickr page to facebook, or post a few images directly.

It is a valuable component of our Social Media package.



Hi Suzanne. We are struggling with the same challenge as you. Our public-facing social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) are growing fairly organically, but we are not getting a lot of participation on our staff blog/discussion forum which resides on our Intranet. We get betwen one and five comments per post, and that’s about it.

I’d love to figure out how to accelerate the uptake. I’ll check back here for more ideas next week.


One additional thought. We have Sharepoint internally and are using it in some areas, but not extensively. One thing that I found is that there isn’t any great reason to go back to the Sharepoint website and that I need some sort of reminder. I believe that Sharepoint supports RSS and it Email alerts, but I’ve always found it a bit cumbersome. You may want to find ways of making it so that people can easily subscribe to messages about updates to the website.


I try to approach situations like this from the “typical person’s” perspective.

These are people who have had “casual” contact with social networking (probably a Facebook page). Typically, people who work in a health care situation are overloaded to the brink and don’t have time to engage in social media. They don’t want to be seen as “wasting time” by their supervisors.

This is an attitude that needs to change, but it’s going to take all of us to do that.

I don’t think overloading employees with gimmicks or incentives will work for participation on websites.

What will drive someone to participate is excellent and engaging content about issues that matter to the employee. There will be a few “revolutionaries” that start to see the benefits and those people will begin to evangelize the sites to others. It is a slow process, but word of mouth with spread faster than business cards or traditional advertising.


Hi Jamie… I agree that business cards and token “rewards” are not going to drive engagement. I do think these tools could provide value in supporting and augmenting our employee outreach efforts.

For example, we’ve started to send out a monthly communiction “brief” via email to highlight and direct employees to new blog content. It’s been very successful. After our latest communication, a couple of nurse managers/educators contacted me and requested printed materials and handouts that they could bring to learning faires and training events to help educate RNs about these new online resources. It would be handy to have printed business cards avaialable with our blog urls to answer the “How do I find that blog again?” questions and help direct people to the blogs.

Otherwise, as you’ve pointed out…interesting, valuable, and engaging content is still king! : )

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