Employer Social Media Could Save US Companies $370 Billion in 2012

Corporate Social Networking & the US Economy

I’ve long been a fan of social media for the purposes of research, information sharing, and relationship building.  It’s also a perfect solution for knowledge sharing. The social intranet or employee social network is defined as an internal platform where all employees can author content and connect easily.  These corporate social networking platforms offer a variety of engagement and productivity benefits from employee brainstorming, increased collaboration, knowledge transfer from older more tenured workers to new employees, as well as comfort for the virtual worker.

This sort of enabling technology can have an effect on employee satisfaction levels, which are surprisingly low and can create a major drag on company performance and the economy as a while.

Corporate Social Networking & the US Economy

Lost employee productivity and employee disengagement costs the US economy $370 billion every year.  Employee disengagement at an organization happens a number of different ways including boredom, job fit, managers, unclear expectations and lack of connection to colleagues and the company itself.  In 2008, Aberdeen Group Research published a report that evaluated blogs, wikis, and other social networking tools as a method to improving employee engagement.    Their findings saw that of researched companies those with internal social networking platforms saw an 18% improvement in employee engagement scores during the course of a year, compared to only a 1% increase for companies without such tools.

Yes, Aberdeen’s data and research is a little old and yes, corporate social media networks are not the end all be all solutions.  The year 2008 was a lifetime ago in terms of social media.  And yet forward thinking companies were already adding employee social networks to their corporate intranet structures as a way to build relationships and strengthen employee engagement.  One company, ThoughtFarmer has put together quite the comprehensive white paper cataloguing the benefits of an employee social network.  Their white paper titled, “Social Intranets & Employee Engagement” provides the most comprehensive list of statistics, information, and resources to date.  You can also download a copy and take a look for yourself.

For those of you considering a social intranet or enterprise social networking, the ThoughtFarmer white paper may be a resource you can hand to your senior managers and executives to help make the business case.

NASA & Employee Social Media

Once forward thinking company who has embraced the social intranet is NASA.  They created their corporate social networking tool, Spacebook in June 2009.  The concept was developed by a team of NASA millennial interns as the government agency was struggling with a way to retain the younger Generation Y workers while also sharing knowledge as their more senior engineers were beginning to retire.

I first heard NASA speak about their Spacebook employee social network in November of 2009 at an Information Technology conference.  They were ahead of their time and other companies began following suit and in very conservative industries like AT&T and The Hartford Group.

Social Media Networks & Employee Social Media

Social Media Networks help aid in the sharing of information, learning, and communication by making it easy for any employee to publish content and connect.  All of this is essential to an engaged and productive workforce.  As work goes from more face to face to online, it’s critical that companies have a intuitive and welcoming intranet in which to share that information.  That is exactly where a social intranet can help.

Many HR managers feel under the gun to improve employee engagement, but with very limited tools. A social intranet, if implemented carefully and with full executive support, may support lasting employee engagement in this online, digital age.

Is your organization using an employee social network?  If so, what is it and how is it helping keeping you and your employee peers engaged?

This post is sponsored by ThoughtFarmer.  Follow them on Twitter, @thoughtfarmer and be sure to download their new white paper on Internal Social Networks and Employee Engagement.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ben Martinez says

    Great post JMM!

    I was one of the champions for an internal social network at my company. The tool was called Yammer. Basically the same platform as Facebook. Overall, we received great responses and participation from colleagues at various levels. However, the tool was later taken down b/c our legal team did not feel comfortable with it. In hindsight, the team of people who introduced Yammer, should have got more support at the executive level and legal level. This was back in 2010. Fast forward 2 years and…..

    Our executive staff is now looking at social media as a way to help/increase engagement, recruiting, recognition and reward, internal communication. Go figure. If it makes sense for us, you could say the Yammer tool helped move us along the social media journey.

    Any advice on getting executive support? I often find that executives in HR do not see the value or understand social at all. I am looking for my 2 minute elevator speech on pitching “the why” of social media to an HR exec who needs to be convinced.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for the comment. I love Yammer. I think that you need to speak the language of ROI to HR. Thought Farmer’s white paper is also a start. I will tell you that on the webinar I hosted today with employment law attorney, Jon Hyman he mentioned how companies are using internal social networks as a way to provide employees a place to be themselves, share their opinions, and grievances internally. Doing so keeps employees from feeling they have to post on public forums and air company dirty laundry as well as protecting companies from NLRB social media issues.

      I’m happy to say that HR leaders are getting the message. It’s just taking time and hopefully conversations, articles, and more talks like this can help move the needle.


  2. Candice says

    Hi Jessica,
    I stumbled upon your blog while doing some research for uni relating to Enterprise 2.0, and I found your post really informative. I am also looking into the links between social media and employee engagement as a way of encouraging management to give support to an internal social network where I work. I work for an organisation that uses little social media internally or externally and recently a group of employees started using Yammer as a way of communicating socially, as Facebook and Twitter etc are banned. This was received well by the staff but instruction has since been received from our ICT manager that use of Yammer is to cease as the security risks that it poses are too great. I suppose this is probably due to the fact that management were not consulted prior to the staff using Yammer and because our organisation has no social media policy in place to regulate its use. I’m just concerned that employee engagement rates will continue to fall if some move toward implementing some form social intranet is not made.

    I think too many managers still view social media as a huge time waster rather than a place for staff to communicate and collaborate. Sadly, we might have to wait for the next generation to start climbing the ranks before we see any real change in the way management views social media.

    Also, sad to see that NASAs Spacebook has been decommissioned.

    Great post.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Candice,

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I think that in many ways NASA was ahead of their time with Spacebook,but given the move toward a more virtual workforce, the popularity in the online social collaboration tools is growing. Having just been to the HR Technology conference this week, this shift was very evident. Many companies are jumping into this space as employers are looking for ways to make their internal platforms and internets interactive and a way to share knowledge with employees.



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