I’m live blogging Abi Signorelli’s talk from the Media 140 event. Abi used to work for Virgin Media (head of internal comms). For last two years she’s been a freelance consultant.

16.45: Abi starts with a litmus test: how many people in the room know me (stand up!), now keep standing if you met me online, now keep standing if you ended up collaborating with me in any way (a handful of people).

Communities are not just about work: it’s a lot of other things: I’m part of a Man Utd community, a cooking community, gardening…

So, what are the tools, or rather the methods? I don’t like the term social media, it’s not about tools, it’s about being social, a social culture.

Being more social

First up, I’d like to talk about audio. Often a very forgotten medium. If you’re in a very large corporate, a large chunk of employees will never have met the CEO: audio is a great way to bring the CEO to those employees: eg: audioboo: for example, get the CEO to comment on a new product that’s just been released, record it on your phone and tweet it: great way to communicate internally and externally at same time.

Another example, ipadio: I did a load of interviews with participants in an event and then broadcast them using ipadio; great way to amplify your events.

Video is an absolute no-brainer. You just need a flipcam or iphone. Also these days the Blair Witch type effect is more acceptable: it’s almost a little bit more engaging: more real, more intimate. I’m a big fan of video and do lots of food videos with my brother. At Virgin I did lots of interviewing from the frontline on a flipcam: eg with one of our call centre agents. Good platforms include YouTube, Vimeo, Qik.

Two years ago Virgin Media launched an advertising campaign for broadband called Powerful Stuff. There was a lot of social activity around it. People were uploading the old Duracell Bunny advert, etc. It was a great way to get people engaged.

Microblogging: Twitter is the obvious one to mention here. I love Twitter. Twitter’s beautiful in lots of ways. When we opened up Twitter at Virgin Media we were previously connecting the unconnectable. We had someone working down in Chichester who started collaborating with someone up in Newcastle. It led to customer service opportunities, collaborating with business leaders on lots of projects, breaking news. It’s a great way for your people to be staying in touch.

Beyond the firewall

People are nervous about ‘letting employees loose’ but if you don’t trust your employees, why do you employ them. There is always Yammer if you prefer to keep stuff behind the firewall.

Social networks: I’ll just look at Facebook and LinkedIn. Brilliant for community building. Great way to generate engagement. Your employees are your biggest advocates. Even Quora is becoming a useful platform – there’s a great internal comms discussion going on there right now.

Andy: is it important to channel people to one or more places?

Abi: my view is that we’re all about coaching, enabling and empowering people to do it themselves. We’re not about directing or telling. Internal comms almost doesn’t need to exist any more because employees do it by themselves.

17.08: Abi: There’s absolutely loads of other tools out there: delicious for example: you might have someone in the company who does a lot of research, reads a lot of articles, you can all go to that guy’s bookmarks and read it though. If you want to look at my bookmarks on social media and internal comms, please do!

Flickr is great for photos; WordPress for blogs. There are all sort of tools that can be used. It’s much more about the principle of your employees going beyond the firewall than the actual tools themselves.

Launching a competition to find bloggers for a specific event (eg: the Olympics) is a great way of getting employees to start blogging. And bear in mind that your detractors can often become your biggest fans.

Who gets it right?

Comment: a lot of the time senior management block this stuff because they’re scared of it or they simply don’t understand it – it might be worth taking time just to give them a bit of training.

Abi: yes, I really think IBM are rockstars in terms of this. They are still a trailblazer in using social media internally. Look for (IBM exec) John Iwata’s video on YouTube: it’s great – covers everything that might bother newbies. Everything, libel, privacy etc will be covered by existing corporate policy.

Something for the future? Gowalla, Facebook places, Foursquare and a load of others. I think location-based stuff is the next massive opportunity: there’s a huge opportunity to use this internally with your employees.

Re policies and guidelines, I always steal from IBM. I don’t like calling it a policy, much rather guidelines.

Asda are also rockstars in this space: look at The Green Room – a great example of transparency.

Why digital transformation is a must for every business

Main image: TV ad from Virgin Media’s Powerful Stuff campaign (screenshot)