Case study of how Virgin Media use social media as a key part of their internal communications strategy

Global Social Media 

It seems an age since last week’s Social Media World Forum. I attended many of the presentations in the enterprise social media stream, and while some presentations were lame and quite frankly, sleep inducing, there were some that were excellent.

I wanted share with you one of the best presentations of the day, by Helen Farrar, Head of Internal Communications at Virgin Media.


Helen’s session was entitled, Using Social Media as an Internal Communications Tool, and here are some of notes and observations from it.

Virgin Media is only three years old, although they are made up of some established heavyweight companies such as NTL and Telewest, so their systems and, more importantly, their culture are still developing. Just to give you an idea of scale, here are some of the facts (which are relevant to their social media strategy as you will see):

  • Retail store network
  • Large population of installation engineers on the road
  • Call centres
  • Based in UK, Philippines, South Africa and India
  • 20,000 employees
  • 100 offices
  • 5,000 vehicles on the road

They are very focused on giving their employees a voice within the business, and they use social media to do this. They currently use six channels to do this:

1. Intranet. This is the main online channel used internally to communicate

2. The Grill.This is a live online web chat, ‘grilling’ someone within the business. Anyone in the business can ask the individual getting ‘grilled’ questions, and it is a great way to get views and opinions aired and shared within the business. It is filmed and recorded for the archive.

3. Forum’s. These are similar to the intranet, but sit separately within the structure. Although nervous initially regarding the time it would take to manage them, the forums actually self manage themselves and have needed very little moderation. They have proved effective because they invoke different responses from different people across the business.

4. Wiki’s. These are information wiki’s across the business. They have grown into their own micro communities, as individual sections of the business build up their own ‘local’ knowledge communities. These engage people differently, because they are reliant on colleagues working together to populate them with information.

5. Twitter. They have a ‘locked account’ (they simply protect their tweets) called @VMGrapvine that currently has 430+ people in their online community. They have encouraged use of this channel by having ‘Twitter only’ competitions and awards such as Best Tweet and Best Twit of the Year. Again, they have found this channel od interest to a different mix of employees, and Virgin Media feel that it has been responsible for breaking down barriers internally and linking many (otherwise unconnected) employees up.

6. Blogs. They currently have 25 blogs being written within the organisation on a wide range of subjects. They actively encourage anyone to blog and share them within the Virgin Media network.

These are all great on the surface, but have they made a difference to internal communication within Virgin Media?

Helen believes there have been five real benefits from using the multitude of channels as part of their communication strategy:

  1. Real-time feedback on real-time communications
  2. Social media has revolutionised the way they are able to reach out to diverse cultures across different geographical boundaries, and link many of them together, by giving them different channels to do this.
  3. It has helped them move away from just being an information ‘top-down’ company, by instigating all these ‘bottom-up’ communication channels. All employees now have a voice.
  4. The employees can choose which way they communicate with other employees, and how they share information with each other.
  5. Their employees are now taking responsible for their own communications and information which they are sharing with one another. They are not waiting for Virgin Media to ‘tell them something’ they are now using colleagues on the network to help instead.

I think what they have done is an excellent example of how an organisation can use social media effectively internally.

But where do they go from here?

Helen was very clear on what the social media future holds for her internal communication team:

  • Personalisation
  • Cutting out the noise – making the communications more relevant
  • Crowdsourcing
  • More blogs

I, for one, will be watching them with interest, to see how they keep this level on innovation going!

I will be sharing some of the other good presentations with you over the next few weeks.

Important footnote: While Virgin Media may well be doing a great job with internal comms, they need to link this department up with the operational teams such as customer services! The Virgin Media team obviously have people using keyword tracking (as they should of course), for anyone that mentions their brand name on Twitter. Then they (very kindly) try and engage with you on Twitter to identify and deal with issues. That bit they do well.

But the problem then comes when you have to actually engage with their pitiful customer services department. >> How do I have the right to say this? >> I have been a customer from the start and have many examples of inadequate and abysmal customer service from employees that shouldn’t have even been let near a phone, let alone a customer!!

Virgin Media’s challenge>>>>> using social media externally, as successfully as they have done internally!

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We consult, train, tweet, blog, text, post, speak, share, read, update, photograph, video and talk about recruitment. At Sirona Consulting we work with companies, recruitment agencies, RPO’s HR & recruitment technology vendors and conference / event organisers, helping them understand and integrate social media into their recruitment strategies. We have have been doing this now for twelve years, working with many companies along the way, from small independent recruiters right through to large international companies. We are honest, ethical and have experience of working across a range of different industry sectors delivering success in the UK, Europe, Middle East, APAC and the United States.



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