The divide between work and social media is no longer rigid. Social media is now an active tool in many businesses with teams using group messaging, virtual meeting technologies and other collaborative tools to smooth their working lives.
In a typical working day, any employee could reach out to a professional networking group on LinkedIn or Facebook Groups appealing for advice with a workplace issue, recruit a new teammate via Twitter or LinkedIn, join a real-time meeting on Google Hangouts or Basecamp’s Campfire and collaborate internally on projects using tools such as Workplace, Yammer or Asana.
The fact is, social media platforms are popular because they digitally replicate the interactions we strive for offline. Snapchat is really good at replicating informal, goofy conversations we have with our intimate friends; LinkedIn is good for people trying to build their professional network.
These types of social interactions are well established – only the channel is novel. Without Snapchat, kids would hang out with their friends in the playground. Without LinkedIn, salesmen would cold call and job hunters would send speculative CVs through the post.
In a business context, social media has the same facility to replicate the one-to-one and group interactions that usually take place in a workplace, without the same level of interruption and travel it would require to have these same interactions offline.
Social hangouts and group messaging help us have meetings without wasting time and money travelling and messaging threads help us have conversations with our colleagues without interrupting them at their desks. It’s also easy to loop an outsider into a team without needing to get them a building pass printed.
Social media also offers practical tools such as file and image sharing, and workflow tools such as editorial controls. Workplace social media platforms have borrowed features from non-work social media platforms, such as adding emoticons to Slack messages or tagging people on pages.
Other features are unique to workplace tools – such as ‘work anniversaries’ LinkedIn has gifted the world or shareable to-do lists such as in Basecamp.
Social For International Teams
Social media is particularly helpful for international businesses, particularly those that work across different time zones and need asynchronous messaging. Conversations don’t have to happen in real-time, so they can carry on outside the other party’s working hours to be picked up when they’re back online.
Central administrators can support company culture by taking a considered approach to how they set up workplace social media tools. You should make a point of inducting new team members into how your business uses social media as part of your onboarding process.
You’ll need to establish some ground rules, consider how you’re setting up the different working groups, and discuss any policies for inviting outsiders such as temporary contractors or external consultants into company conversations and sharing files.
It’s also a good idea to have processes in place for removing leavers from platforms.
You can help teams focus and prioritise by setting the agenda and outlining the goals and priorities for the channel. For instance, Slack allows administrators to set predetermined topic channels to keep the conversation focused on key topics and project areas.
It’s a good idea to encourage people to set their profile to include details such as their usual office location and the global time zone they work in and let them personalise it to help everyone get to know each other. You can also use profile icons to show which location or team people are in every time they join a conversation.
Social media can really support co-operation across team boundaries by bringing the different professional disciplines together.
Typically, local offices will have one marketing manager, one IT manager, and one procurement manager. All these disciplines work in isolation from their peers in other offices. Social media enables a greater level of co-operation between these professional allies, helping support a global working culture across these specific roles.
Managing Local Languages
If your business is global, chances are you’ll have a number of different languages being spoken at a local level. It’s possible to insist that everyone collaborates online using the business language, but you may find that doesn’t come as naturally to all of your teams.
This can prevent key people joining the important conversations and may lead to teams eschewing the main global channels altogether.
Some multilingual organisations choose to enable multilingual social media platforms so that teams can automatically use their local language.
It’s even possible to implement real-time translation into platforms such as Slack, HipChat and Skype for Business using applications such as SYSTRAN.io in order to encourage all language users to join global conversations.
Perhaps the biggest contribution that social media can make to team working is helping us avoid interruption and better organise our conversations. There’s been a lot of research in recent times about how destructive interruption is to concentration.
Social media’s asynchronous approach to conversations means that people can get the answer they need without needing to interrupt a colleague with a phone call that takes them away from a task or client. The best gift social media gives us could just be peace.