By Brian Murray Nobody can argue that technology and communication are changing at a rapid pace. It seems like on a weekly basis a new social network or platform is arriving. This week Diaspora is launching in beta and last week UnThink launched to take on Facebook. Facebook has 800 million users and the amount of time being spent on it is only increasing. LinkedIn has seen a successful IPO and at this point it's popularity is ever rising. All of this can be seen as a distraction, but can we use it to create a better work environment and workplace? I say unequivocally, YES.
The Changing Work Force The office has always been full of distractions. Undoubtedly cell phones were thought to be a distraction at one time (especially by school authorities!). At the time it was unimaginable to text and call people wherever they were! But can you now argue that you shouldn't be able to Google something at any time or receive a message from a loved one? I recently saw a study by Cisco that stated young people hold the ability to use Social Networks and the phone of their choice above higher salaries. People under the age of 30 have grown up with technology at their fingertips and it has become ingrained in them. Is it worth fighting through IT solutions and scare tactics what is now a part of your employees? How can you possibly fight them from using Facebook on their cell phone when you expect them to answer an email in eight minutes or less? Here are some things you can do to set yourself and others up for success.
Create a Social Media Policy I am all for a Social Media Policy in the workplace. There are tons of examples of good policies that can lead to proper use by employees. If you are really interested in seeing the social media policy of other companies simply Google "Social Media Policy". Instead of blindly blocking the use of Social Media within the office wouldn't it be better to educate your employees about how they can use it and safeguard your themselves? I am a firm believer that if you set guidelines and teach the consequences surrounding "Unsafe" Social Media use you can curb many unnecessary issues. If you have a great company that has an amazing culture, you may even find your employees or interns saying things that will help drive recruitment and sales!
Productivity Imagine this. A website that is used daily by over 400 million people on a daily basis that tells you when something is changing through email, text messaging and on site notifications. It allows for private communication between an entire company or smaller teams. It has built in chat features for either one on one chatting or free video conferencing for any user with a webcam.
By now you realize I am probably alluding to Facebook. The groups feature allows you to quickly and easily add people to projects, forums, and teams. They can share information, pictures, video and even create documents that can be edited by others. When any of these actions are taken the entire team is notified in ways they choose. They are already engaging on the platform so why not have them use it to increase productivity!
BONUS: If they are friends with co-workers and management they will be more likely to use Social Media responsibly. This isn't always the case but I can personally attest that I've seen the maturation of Social Media use by people in my age range. I see a lot less red cup pictures and political rants than I once did!
Recruiting One of the best and under utilized parts of Social Media is the ability to screen and understand people before you meet them. You can see what makes them tick and what their interests are. You can see how they represent themselves.
I have two tips for those who are regularly engaging with new clients, business people and prospective employees. The first is to download and use the browser plugin Rapportive. Rapportive works within your Gmail or Google Apps account and quickly displays relevant information about those who you are emailing or have email you! It looks on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter for the relevant user and provides pictures or information relating to the person. It even has a built in note feature where you can add bits to help you remember things such as birthday's, anniversaries or phone numbers for people you do know! As an aside you might be asking how is this possible? Rapportive simply searches for the email address on these sites and provides information if the person is searchable.
The second is using the search feature to find people on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook. I find it a lot easier to remember names if I have seen a picture of them. Many people use different names on Social Media sites to prevent being searched for, but they forget or choose not to disable being found by email. You can find a wealth of information in mere seconds!
What is your company's social media policy? How do you use social media in the office?