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ESPOO, Finland – When we talk about social media and big brands, a lot of attention tends to be paid to its use for talking and listening to customers. There are hundreds of articles about the ways that PR and marketing departments might turn such channels to their advantage. But while that’s as true for Nokia as it is for any large, consumer-facing company, the other side to the story is the use of social media for internal communications. We spoke with Nokia’s Tiina Jaatinen, Senior Communications Specialist, Social Media, to find out more.

Social media inside Nokia has a long history – considering this is such a new concept. Back in 2001, the company launched an internal site called Jazz Cafe as a kind of informal discussion forum. This was swiftly followed by other discussion forums and wikis to share expertise. As you can see from the timeline below, the company has experimented with multiple formats and platforms, some of which have flourished and other of which have been less successful.

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Tiina told us, “Social media is very natural to Nokia. Our tagline ‘Connecting People’ isn’t just a marketing slogan: it describes the very essence of the way we want to be as a company”.

“Getting people to communicate and creating relationships is really important for business, too. Nokia is a huge organization and it would be easy for whole departments and regions to become siloed, only ever seeing or hearing about their own affairs, if we didn’t make such efforts.”

There are three main platforms within Nokia for social media. The oldest and one of the most important is the BlogHub. Every employee is entitled to have their own internal blog to share their work and ideas and there are more than 1400 in existence and a total of over 100,000 posts and comments. Not all of them are active but enough of them are to make sure there’s always plenty to read about what’s going on around the company. Supporting this space is the VideoHub where employees can watch and share yes… videos.

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One of the newest platforms within Nokia is Socialcast, a kind of half-way house between Facebook and Twitter, but designed for internal communications. Like those platforms, there’s a wall of scrolling updates and it’s designed for smaller snippets and quick questions. CEO Stephen Elop is a fan of the platform, Tiina tells us, “When he joined, he asked us all three questions using SocialCast: What things should I change? What things should stay the same? And what issues I might miss as I get to know the company.” He also comments on others’ updates and writes a blog column giving more insights into the latest announcements.

There are already 14,000 Nokia employees with Socialcast accounts. It’s been enormously successful in terms of making communications and collaboration faster and easier than before: there’s one department apparently, who haven’t sent a single email since the platform was introduced because they’re able to do all their communication over Socialcast. “And it works,” says Tiina. “Socialcast enables open and transparent conversations across the company and everyone can benefit from questions that gets answered.”

But don’t imagine that social media at Nokia is just about chatter and who’s going to the canteen. The third key platform is Sphere, a space for sharing, discussing, voting and working on new ideas or changes for products, services and the way work is done. If you’ve seen sites like MyStartbucksIdea, you’ll know the type of platform. Anyone can participate and a number of ideas have graduated to change things at Nokia.

We asked Tiina about the challenges Nokia faces in terms of its internal social media. One obvious one is language. The company operates in almost every country on the planet. But if the aim is to break people out of silos and make connections, then arguably all these communications should take place in one language. “It’s very tricky,” says Tiina. “We don’t want to discourage or exclude anyone from taking part. But at the same time, we don’t want knowledge or ideas hidden away from the rest of the company because they can’t read it.”

The second challenge is that while everyone is entitled to take part in discussions, in practice, it’s the people with office jobs who sit at computers that are most likely to do so. Efforts are being made to enable access to internal social media using mobile devices, so hopefully more people will be able to participate before too long.

During this week, Social Media Week, a number of internal events are planned for Nokia staff to help them stay abreast of the latest developments in the field and encourage further participation – to “move up the social media ladder,” as Tiina puts it.

Do you use social media internally at work? What has been most successful?

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