Social Media in the Work Place

Communication: it is the necessary connective tissue between people who need to coordinate to get things done at work. To me it is obvious that social media, which are simply digital platforms for communication, have the potential to add value to the workplace.

In this post, our class was asked to use emojis to express our opinion on social media in the workplace. My personal experience with social media at the workplace has included (1) occasional GChat use with peers and teammates at the consulting firm I worked at, and (2) Slack which was used company-wide at a Boston startup I worked at last summer called Jana. In this post, I’ll articulate some of my feelings about the value of using social media in the workplace.

  1. Lose the polish for the internal stuff.

Consulting teaches you professionalism and polish. When I was a junior consultant, the first few direct emails I sent to clients I first sent as a draft to my manager to receive feedback and approval before hitting “send” myself. We were encouraged to be careful about every word in a presentation or an email. Typos or misspelling a client’s name were felt to be embarrassing. Every communication required careful consideration to tone, controlling the message, and clarity.

That feeling when you made a mistake in an email to your client.

What is a bit scary but also liberating about social media in the work place is that communications can have less polish. While I think there is a place for well-polished communication skills, especially in externally facing communications, writing polished and clear emails takes extra time and effort. But for internal communication, I think it is often better and more efficient to have communication norms that are optimized for speed, directness, and authenticity, rather than polished formality.

I appreciate that Slack has an “edit” and even “delete” option for messages on their platform. I think it allows for the right balance between getting your message out their quickly without worry and the ability to adjust for clarity (or to not embarrass yourself) if the need arises.

2. Work is social, stop being afraid of that. Create a borderless community for your company.

As someone who values teamwork and engaging with different people, I think the nature of social media is great at (1) promoting relationship building (both personal or professional) and (2) enabling collaboration across functional silos, physical walls, or geographic separation.

The attributes of social media that I think contribute to this are: its online nature, the often casual atmosphere of social media platforms, the low effort/barrier to usage, and the simplicity of the user experience.

Stodgy companies may fear that social media in the workplace will lead to employees slacking off and chatting about personal interests all day. However, I think companies that hire excellent people who are committed and ambitious shouldn’t deploy top-down controls for how much people socialize at work. I think having a strong collegial culture at work is a huge motivator for satisfaction at work, and that social ties can result in things that are good for business, such as mentorship, peer-to-peer advice, more efficient and collaborative problem-solving, easier conflict-resolution between functions, and longer-term retention of employees.

My advice to companies: don’t regulate how the work social media platform is used at a company. Hire great people, create meaningful work, and then you’ll have people who use social media appropriately.

3. Using social media doesn’t mean you have to replace other forms of personal interaction.

I think one reason many people react negatively to social media in the work place is they complain about the loss of face-to-face conversation, or talk about how much they prefer email for certain communications. But I’d respond by saying that social media doesn’t have to replace those other preferences.

I still love in-person meetings or phone calls. I do not prefer typed interactions on GChat or Slack to every other kind of interpersonal communication. But having a chat-application like Slack in the work place doesn’t mean that everyone has to only use Slack to communicate. It can be used in conjunction with tapping someone on the shoulder to talk, making a quick phone call, or even sending someone a lengthy email with bullet points, all the right people cc’ed, and 8 attachments.

4. Slack specifically was great at Jana…

There are a ton of other reasons I liked using Slack when working at Jana. I don’t want to get into the weeds of specific features, but just to run through some of these reasons quickly, they include: transparency, FUN / culture-building, getting a quick answer without typing up an email, collaborative group discussions to collect feedback on new UX designs or discuss product decisions, and the ability to opt in and out of channels. I really liked the Slack integrations we used that are useful for day-to-day work such as alerts for when we’re spending over-budget on a particular growth engine feature or getting updates about A/B tests we’re running.

This post is part of a blog series for a class I’m taking at MIT Sloan called “Social Media Management.” For this blog post, we were asked to select the emoji that best expresses your opinion on the topic of social media in the workplace, and highlight what excites or concerns you the most around Social Media in the workplace.