Categories: social media
Do you use a wiki at work? Do you have a LinkedIn profile for connecting with work colleagues? If so, you’re using social media professionally. In this post, I wanted to get back to basics and explain how social media works. Social media tools work because everyone (with a few tiny exceptions) follows these seven guiding principles that form the basis for the structure of the social media space:
Let me elaborate.
When groups of people come together with a common objective, you end up with a sense of community, almost by default, like this community at Gantthead. You get a sense of community because people can interact with each other. The web enables us to do that – through forums, star ratings, collecting badges, leaving comments etc – more than any other form of media.
The internet allows groups of like-minded people to come together, and project managers can tap into this. After all, your project team is like-minded, with a common objective: to deliver your project.
Collaboration is the foundation which all social media tools are built on: the fact that people want to work together. If people don’t share, there isn’t much to see online. Many websites (again, like this one) draw on the collective knowledge of experts who are sharing their skills.
And it no longer matters where you are based. Technology makes it possible to work across time zones, languages (hurrah for Bablefish!), and with people you have never met. Suddenly, working with project team members in other countries seems possible.
Communication and collaboration go hand in hand. If collaboration is the multi-faceted linking between groups of people with common interests, then communication is a more of a one-way version of the same thing.
Your team may be very collaborative, but there will always be times when you need to tell them something, for example sharing the project board report or to update them on a change of company policy.
Communication also needs to be honest and transparent. You’d expect that with any form of communication, but one of the underlying principles of the web is that you don’t share misinformation deliberately.
As much as many managers would like to believe it, online is not a place where it’s a free for all. Just as in the office, online there are expectations for behaviour, such as not TYPING IN CAPITALS (can you hear me?). Don’t say things to people online that you would not feel comfortable saying to their face: instant messaging for work might be good but that style of communication could slip into unprofessionalism easily if you are not constantly aware of your communication style.
Constraints and good practice around how to interact with other people online have been consolidated into what is called netiquette – manners for internet users.
Duh. Social media tools work best when you are connected to others online! Lucky for us we now have smart phones.
A channel is just a word to describe the way information gets delivered. As a project manager, you need to decide what channels – technologies, software tools, platforms, hardware – you are going to use. Different channels work well for different types of content, so if you want to share photos, you’ll choose a different channel to if you want to get people working on the same document at the same time.
If you read websites about social media marketing or personal branding, you’ll hear experts go on and on about content. It’s what you share online. While some of your project information may not be the most interesting in the world, it is still useful to your audience. But if your project team stops finding the project blog or the wiki useful, then they will stop visiting the site.
Be helpful with what you share and remember that it isn’t for your benefit – it’s for someone else. It’s a fine balance between being engaging and creating an environment where people feel they can share a part of themselves beyond a thumbnail photo and turning your online project space into a flurry of irrelevant messages that the team tune out.
So that is the 7 C’s of social media. Next time I’ll be writing about one final C. Can you guess what it is?
This post was adapted from my book, Social Media for Project Managers (published by PMI). Buy it on Amazon here.