Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Getting Social with Virgin Media

If Twitter can make mainstream headlines, is there a place for it inside organisations? Virgin Media thinks there is, and have used Twitter to increased collaboration and engagement at their company.

Collaboration is fundamental to employee engagement in organisations today where relationships have changed; hierarchies are disappearing; knowledge is more in demand; and individuals expect employers to provide tools that allow them to communicate freely.

Technology makes it possible for employees to connect and communicate easily and quickly across functions, hierarchies, divisions and countries. This sharing of ideas, opinions and knowledge generates incredibly valuable information, vital for informed strategic decision making and, ultimately, business survival.

“Getting social” is a hot topic at Virgin Media – here's how they transformed the way they communicate and collaborate internally using social media tools and techniques.

  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. Forums - 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. Wikis - 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 -With over 100 offices across the UK, Twitter has enabled connections at Virgin that wouldn’t have happened before. It has opened doors for people needing answers and support on a whole variety of topics – from IT support, to finding solutions to customer problems, to tips on where to get the best beer for those travelling to other offices. They have a 'locked account' (they simply protect their tweets) that currently has 430+ people (otherwise known as “Twits”) in their online community. employees join in on everything from twitpic caption competitions to sending out top tips, (“toptwips”) to help their community keep up with the latest developments on Twitter and other social media tools.
  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.

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

  • Real-time feedback on real-time communications
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The employees can choose which way they communicate with other employees, and how they share information with each other.
  • 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.

Have your say

Would you consider using Twitter internally to help employees collaborate and communicate? Why or why not? Virgin as a brand is young and innovative, and the corporate culture encourages experimentation of new technologies, but how would you convince leaders of a more conservative organisation to allow employees to try something like Twitter? Let us know your thoughts below!

Next Week: 10 top tips on how to begin to incorporate social media platforms into your communication strategy.


  1. Thanks, great article Sarah- I totally agree that companies need to start getting their employees socially minded, especially within the media industry, companies can hardly preach to their clients about using social media if their own staff arn't doing it too.

  2. Forums*

    Plurals do NOT take an apostrophe. Ever.