Making Social Media Work in the Workplace

Collectively, the term ‘social media’ refers to a set of applications that make working collaboratively far more effective. When implemented properly, these tools are used for “connecting people with common interests, and more efficiently helping companies reach out to employees, clients, consumers, contacts and potential employees.”[1] However, while many upsides exist to these new methods of working together, there are also some legitimate concerns that need to be addressed for any organization planning to use them.

Just using the term ‘social’ oftentimes immediately turns managers and executives off because it seems to imply that these tools are not directly work related, but are instead intended for people to interact informally. “And yet businesses employ people, people need to trust each other to work together and get things done, and their willingness to trust each other depends in large part on being social with each other… Creating environments where this can happen more readily helps oil the wheels of business and enable staff to get things done.”[2] Informal networks are certainly part of any organization, and in fact are likely more prevalent than the connections formally identified by team assignments or other artificial means. In either case, if you define a network as “a collection of people willing to help each other and work together to achieve things then they become more apparently indispensable to business.”[Ibid.] Social networks have a number of benefits to an organization that can be immediately realized as people begin to improve their connections and communications:

1. A network can inform its participants when tasks are due or when something needs to happen;
2. Participants in a network can share information to help solve problems more quickly and efficiently since there is a broader base of knowledge from which to draw;
3. Information is shared and maintained for the future, which increases the value of the process, and the network itself; and finally
4. As a result of the interactions between participants, permanent relationships are formed and ‘experts’ identified that may have otherwise not been realized.

As Euan Semple of the BBC points out, “The biggest benefits of these networks comes with scale. At the BBC there were eventually 23,000 users of our online forum and this meant that pretty much whatever you wanted to find out about, someone would have done it before or might know someone who had. Once you start finding people chasing the same problems as you, you start to form relationships…”[Ibid.]

Organizations that take advantage of these opportunities often see immediate and dramatically positive results. “[Social networking ]…software knocks down corporate silos, moats, and walls by encouraging open communication and information sharing. Expertise and solutions to problems no longer remain hidden, they are actively sought out and exploited.”[3]

For those of you whose responsibility (or who have made it your mission) is to communicate to management the benefits of social media, I have collected the following resources that measure the benefits and potential risks.

Using Blogs for Business

Social Media and Social Networking

Contact Touchstone Career Coaching for a free job search strategy consultation and to begin developing your career vision.



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