Social media’s new world order is flat

Tony Maraschiello    November 27, 2017

In 2005, Thomas L. Friedman wrote the best-seller The World is Flat. The book describes the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce, wherein all competitors have an equal opportunity.

The book’s title is also an appropriate metaphor for the way many forward-thinking organizations are starting to view internal social media. More and more, we are seeing examples of how social media is being used to break down the silos of communication within an organization and level the playing field for everyone, from executive assistants to CEOs.

Social media is opening the flood gates to free-form conversations about everything from business strategy to personal development to social advocacy.

If social media is indeed the new world order for effective organizational communications, then, like Friedman’s book, that world looks increasingly flat.

Digitally savvy employees crave more

Customers aren’t the only ones with heightened digital expectations from organizations these days. Increasingly, employees are leading the charge in demanding connected, consumer-centric interactions from companies.

Employees expect the same mobile-first, connected, and personalized experiences from their workplace that they’re accustomed to in their personal lives. According to the State of the Connected Consumer research, 71% of employees want their company to provide the same level of technology they use in their daily lives.

Hessie Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at Toronto-based consultancy Humans for AI, is seeing this increasing demand from employees.

“Employees are now part of a bigger ecosystem,” says Hessie. “Everyone is a brand because of social media and everyone has at least five people in their network. They are now effectively the frontline staff for their organization since touch points impact everyone in the organization.”

Gone are the days of closely guarded approaches to communicating with employees. Today’s companies and their chief marketing officers, chief external communicators, and chief internal communicators are looking for new methods for employee engagement and advocacy.

Add to that the entry into the workforce of young, digitally-savvy recruits who expect social media to be part of their everyday lives, and the demand for a flat approach to communications and engagement is more relevant than ever.

Social media encourages horizontal collaboration and unscripted conversations. It short-circuits established power dynamics and traditional lines of communication. And some of the most established Fortune 500 companies, like Intel, are buying into it.

From the infrastructure to the training for employees, to creating internal communities where employees can listen, share and respond with one another, we’re making sure the support is there for employees to participate both inside and outside the Intel walls,” Kari Aakre, Intel’s director of consumer and social media, told CNET Magazine.

Buy-in from the top of the house

In the external social-media realm, information gets shared and commented on within seconds, and executives must decide when (and when not) to reply, what messages should be linked to their blogs, and what to share with their various communities.

That’s why it’s important that leaders buy into, support and lead the charge on adopting authentic and inclusive internal social networks as studies show that if there isn’t tangible and plausible leadership engagement, employees will stop paying attention.

Going forward, companies need an approach that builds on the foundation of culture and engagement to focus on the employee experience holistically, considering all the contributors to job satisfaction, engagement, wellness, and alignment. Social media at the workplace needs to be part of this solution.

“As social media spreads, there will need to be a centralization of communications practices BUT a clear decentralization of execution and activity that allows all employees to be the voice of the organization,” Hessie adds. “This is termed accountability at the edges and will help an organization scale. This means adoption of social channels NOT just organizationally but leveraging individual employee networks to deliver the message, correct any inconsistencies and become the advocate of the organization.”

There’s probably an app for that

An explosion of digital and mobile tools has emerged to help companies design and deliver a great employee experience now and into the future.

New tools are moving well beyond traditional email to improve productivity and engagement. Products such as Facebook’s Workplace, Slack, Microsoft Skype for Teams and  Google G-suite to name a few, can support collaboration and offer engaging platforms for learning, goal alignment, performance management, and traditional HR processes.

The future of social media will include Artificial Intelligence

Hessie’s Humans For AI is a non-profit organization composed of volunteers across business, engineering, science and from various industries from tech to banking to retail to education. Through education, community, and inclusion, Humans For AI wants to demystify AI to enable and empower the workforce of the future to be AI-savvy and to be as diverse as the real world.

Hessie points out that as the use of social media evolves within organizations, so does the technology used to power these conversations. AI, for example, can be used to measure and create real time data which is personalized to each individual within an organization. This gives it a unique ability to help support each person within an organization.

Adds Hessie: “The workforce of the future will be AI-savvy, and be as diverse as the real world.”

Lessons for Others

In order to embrace the future of social media within organizations today, leaders don’t necessarily need to be tech savvy, but they should be champions of technology.

Success depends on trust and giving everyone within the organization a voice and equal opportunity to engage in a variety of topics.

The tools themselves don’t matter as much as the ability of leaders to describe the intent and purpose of the tools. Leaders must think through how the organization will change and how employees will lead it into and through that change.

Today and in the future, the way up for many organizations may indeed rest in the ability to go flat.

Organization: Humans for AI
Industry: Technology
Name of Organization Contact: Hessie Jones, Chief Marketing Officer

Authored by: Tony Maraschiello

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Humans for AI:


Harvard Business Review:

Deloitte white paper – Social Media in the Workplace:


Deloitte Insights:

National Communications:


Huffington Post: