As an enterprise, Acme Corporation is “dipping its toes” into social media. It might be said it’s adopting a cautious, almost experimental approach to the concept. While the organisation has invested in social technology, and maybe even documented a social media policy, the majority of its social media activity is driven from the bottom up. In other words, usage of social media within the organisation relies heavily on grass-roots support and viral marketing among its rank-and-file employees.
Does this sound like your workplace? If so, what does it mean?
In a nutshell, it means you still have plenty of scope to increase your social media activity and realise the corresponding benefits of collaboration, engagement and informal learning.
Take it to the next level
So what does your organisation need to do to take social media to the next level?
To help answer this question, I’ve decided to share 10 insights about workplace social media from a practising learning & development professional in the corporate sector (ie yours truly).
Disclaimer: These insights are not the result of any scientific analysis. Instead, they are the result of observation, conversation, experience, gut instinct, self-important opinion, and general naivety!
1. Field Of Dreams was just a movie.
Just because you build it, doesn’t necessarily mean they will come.
2. Some of your employees will take to social media like ducks to water.
They will be the local champions who celebrate the concept of social media, participate avidly, and engage in true collaboration.
3. Some of your employees are not team players.
Sure, they know the right words to say, and the bare minimum to be seen to be doing, but that’s about as far as it goes. You will never force these people to collaborate. Sorry.
4. Not everyone who shies away from social media is a lone wolf.
Numerous reasons might explain their lack of participation, such as:
• scared of technology
• too shy to voice an opinion
• wary of looking silly in front of the whole company
• too many tools and whizz-bang gadgets to keep track of
• legal implications
• security implications
• too busy
The question you need to ask yourself is: How many of these reasons are legitimate (which means they can be addressed), and how many are excuses that mask deeper problems?
5. A grass-roots, bottom-up approach will only get you so far.
While plenty of organisations have invested in social technology, and some have even documented social media policies, most corporate social media activity appears to be driven from the bottom up. To achieve the critical mass of users and ongoing participation rate required for ROI, you need to adopt a complementary top-down approach. The sustained support of — and participation by — senior executives is essential. They must lead by example.
6. The fear of overstepping your authority is a natural inhibitor.
The company should state explicitly what its employees can and can’t do on both internal and external social media, preferably via a formal policy. Otherwise many employees will err on the side of caution, which may mean refusing to participate.
7. A decentralised model of implementation may not be effective.
If the managers in your workplace don’t implement social media on their own accord, you might need to change the structure and processes of your organisation to make it happen. Specifically, someone needs to own it. This may mean appointing a Social Media Manager to centralise the authority, engage with the right people, and drive real outcomes. The Social Media Manager will need to exhibit that rare combination of determination and creativity to overcome the multitude of reasons why it can’t work, and instead focus on how it can.
8. Banning social media is a double-edged sword.
If you block access to social media frivolity, you also block access to useful resources. Of course, personal mobile devices can circumvent the company’s access policy anyway.
9. Self-regulation can be effective.
That’s not to say that no one will ever abuse their privileges, but again, a good social media policy will define the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Most people will follow suit.
10. No one else cares.
If your organisation doesn’t embrace social media, the Earth will still turn without you. If your employees don’t want to collaborate, participate and learn, that’s your problem.
In summary, the potential of social media is not about the technology. It’s about culture.
To maximise the value of the available tools and platforms, your employees must want to be collaborative; your managers must want to try something new to achieve greater success; your company must be proactive.
If this doesn’t sound like your culture, your competitors won’t mind at all.