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Trip Hawkins, center, CEO of Digital Chocolate, with members of his Quality Assurance team in their offices in San Mateo, Calif., on Monday, May 15, 2006.Jim Wilson/The New York Times

When most business leaders think of social media, they think of how it can help them communicate with clients and potential clients. This is true, but what many don't realize is that it is equally important to use social media internally to facilitate communication between departments, overcome geography, and ultimately to maximize productivity.

The following 10 social media tips to improve internal communication within your company:

1. Create a common language: Train the entire staff and create a common language. Explain how this will help the company achieve its goals and how it pertains to their particular division.

2. Understand your company culture: Culture will define how well your social media projects will do within your company and if you have a closed culture by nature, a transformation towards transparency needs to be made.

3. Create internal social networks: this will bring the company closer together by facilitating formal and informal communication between different departments as well as lower and upper management. Using social networking applications like LinkedIn as a personnel directory is a very good way of finding people in your organization and looking at what skills or experience they have.

4. Information sharing: Many organizations suffer from lack of information sharing. Creating a platform, such as a DIY Wiki platform, composed of all company-related information – articles, videos and webinars amongst many others – is an excellent way to allow all company members to access valuable company information anytime and anywhere.

5. Encourage employee participation: Speaking up in the boardroom can be intimidating for junior staff. Management should encourage staff to offer ideas in a less threatening environment via social media. This gives everyone a voice and may produce a great idea that would have otherwise never surfaced.

6. Collect intelligence: User-generated content via social media is worth its weight in gold as it becomes valu

7. Mobile technology and online project management tools: taking advantage of new technologies like iPads, smartphones, conferencing tools like Skype and Webex or project management tools like Wrike and Zoho allow a company to function efficiently from different geographical locations.

8. Don't forget the risks: there are always risks with every opportunity and these only need to be taken into consideration and mitigated by including them in your model. Those who don't integrate social media into their business because of risk will be left behind.

9. Have a solid social media policy: Having clear rules and regulations in writing sets the framework of what is acceptable and not when using social media in the workplace. This will protect both the company and the individual and make the whole experience safe and easy.

10. Do not go enthusiastically in the wrong direction: In order to take advantage of social media efficiently, a company needs to have a step-by-step model that will gradually bring the right combinations of social media in the perspective of specific business goals, within the context of your business environment.

Steve Nicholls is the author of the best-selling book Social Media in Business and has implemented advanced Internet applications for leading organizations across the world.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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