What’s all this social media stuff about? You’ve probably seen a lot about social media for marketing and communicating with customers, but you can also use social media tools within your company.
Social media in a business context is communication and collaboration with purpose. Let’s look at each of those elements:
Social media tools can be really effective ways of providing new channels to communicate about your project. You could use a blog as your project’s daily log or produce a podcast for the team to listen to at a time it suits them. Some of your stakeholders may prefer to receive information in short updates direct to their mobile phone, for example. Many stakeholders now prefer to have access to real time project status information – it’s no longer good enough to write a monthly steering group report and use that as the update when people ask you for the latest information.
Social media tools provide alternative channels to share the messages about your project, so people have a choice when it comes to how they wish to receive it.
Social media tools enable you to engage your team in a variety of way. While there are some that enable real time interaction, like instant messaging, one of the benefits of social media is that it facilitates asynchronous collaboration. For example, one team member in India can update the project wiki with her latest information, and this will automatically alert her colleagues in Brazil. When Rio de Janeiro wakes up for work, the team there can take part in the discussion without having to be online during Indian office hours.
Many project stakeholders will already be using social media tools to manage their other projects or their personal lives. As project managers, it’s important that we make it easy for them to work with us, and that means working in the ways that they work. Project team members often have to take on project responsibilities on top of their day job, and forcing them to use project management tools that they are not familiar with can be a barrier to completing or updating tasks. If their project manager allows them to use the tools they are already using they will find it easier to collaborate on tasks and provide status updates.
Adopting social media tools on your projects is all well and good, but what are you doing it for? If your team already has communication issues, giving them some software won’t necessarily make it better. If your team all work in the same office and have lunch together each day they won’t get any benefit from being able to work together effectively online.
It is important to understand the reasons behind why you want to adopt social media tools on your project. Will a blog help you reach a wider group of interested people inside the company? Will a wiki help you organise your project information more effectively? Will podcasts help you build a library of training material?
Social media won’t be suitable for every project, or every organisation. However, it is important to keep up with developments technology – even if you choose not to implement them. Knowing more about the technology and tools available will help you make better decisions about whether the investment in time, money and effort is the right thing for your team.