5 Ways to Use Social Media in the Office for Communication
Have you noticed that a lot of the folks in your office spend a fair amount of time on social media throughout the workday?
I hope you were able to pick up on the sarcasm dripping from my keyboard as I posed that question. Social media is everywhere and a good number of people in offices today are as addicted to it as the average middle school student avoiding his homework at night.
Of course, one way to deal with this is to ban certain social media outright. But often that is less than effective. It may a better idea to go with the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy or the “when they give you lemons, make lemonade” strategy.
However you want to think about it, consider using social media to help improve office communication. Here are five good ways.
1. Instant Messengers
Instant messaging is a very convenient way to send and receive quick messages. Groups of employees—departments for example—can be organized into lists and when employees are truly busy, they can indicate that in their online statuses, including information about when they’ll be back. If everyone is on the same IM system, it can replace that “check in and sign out” white board that you lost sometime last year. This can be a far better system than getting stuck in the middle of a game of telephone tag. IM apps are available for smart phones, so even road warriors can be included. Gtalk, AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Skype are the most well known. Skype is often used for simple video conferencing as well.
If everyone in your office has a Google+ account, company contacts and other business associates can be organized into “circles.” Once the circles are created, employees can share messages, links, photos and more with the appropriate group of people. Imagine how handy this can be for a team working on a special project.
Here’s an alternative to social media sites like Facebook and Google+. Think of Yammer as your company’s own Facebook that employees can use to communicate with one another. If you feel the need to focus and control social media access more, this might be the way to go. The basic service is free, but there are fee-based plans available that offer more bells and whistles.
I’m tempted to label Twitter as “instant messaging on steroids,” but actual “tweets” are generally not as long as instant messages, so the “steroid” imagery sort of breaks down. Alas. However, Twitter excels at immediacy and its ability to broadcast quickly to a large number of people. When the big cheese from the home office pulls up in the parking lot, a tweet can put everyone in office on their best behavior almost instantly. By the way, it can be a great way to communicate with your clients and deal with customer service issues as well.
LinkedIn is the career/professional version of Facebook and it lets users create private groups. If you prefer not to go total control freak with Yammer, but don’t want to open the floodgates by having everyone on Google+, LinkedIn is good middle ground. It has the sharing, commenting and discussion capabilities we expect from social media, but the vibe here is all business. It’s also a good way to make and develop contacts in your profession and with your clients, so you can consider it a way to leverage social media for both improved inter, or intra-office communication as well as something like an electronic business card or CV.
Here’s the deal. With a little planning and training, your coworkers can be encouraged to use social media for more than posting their favorite cookie recipes on Pinterest. And if everyone is busy enough, they will likely end up using social media in ways that are productive and profitable for the business.
Neville Luff is a marketing strategist for Benchmark Furniture, a UK company offering home and office furniture including dining room tables, office tables, designer tables, beds, seating furniture and more.