Social media at work: where does it fit in?

Social media has increasingly become a huge part of our social lives — from keeping up to date with family and friends to professional networking. Billions of people are active on social media every day, however, its usage at work has largely been seen as a hindrance rather than a help… until recently.

In many traditional organisations, there is a sense of fear when it comes to using social at work — how could it help, would it not just encourage employees to ‘sit around on Facebook all day’ rather than be productive?

Social media is so much more than that.

The rise and fall of the email

“Electronic mail has become a vital business tool for many companies . . . when used effectively it can improve a company’s productivity and competitiveness.”

According to a recent article, this is what the Financial Times wrote about the new business craze for email in 1995.

21 years later, and email has become the time-sponge of the workplace. How many times do you check your inbox? According to some stats, the average office worker checks their inbox 30 times per hour. Surely this constant interruption doesn’t inspire productivity? Furthermore, employees constantly feel a sense of bombardment, which is not beneficial for employee mental health and wellbeing.

To put the final nail in the coffin, email often doesn’t meet business needs. It’s very easy to be accidentally missed out of an email chain, it doesn’t work well for collaborative projects, it makes it difficult to save information for later and often employees need to use other tools to rectify these issues — further complicating communications.

With the rise in remote working and a greater need for inclusive, cross-departmental projects, it could be argued that email is no longer fit for purpose. To be honest, I’m not sure how it’s kept up for this long.

A gap in the market

A gap in the market had begun to emerge, and although internal social networks like Yammer were in existence, they weren’t really fit for taking the place of the mighty email, and often needed extensive initiatives from management to get colleagues involved.

Logically, LinkedIn would be the company to take the lead on this new space. It’s already a professional network and a new tool that helped workplace productivity and communication would be a fantastic addition to their product portfolio.

They’re already fulfilling a lot of the use cases of a good enterprise social network. The majority of professionals have a profile, complete with their skills and experience, and many have added useful connections. The important part here though is that they have done this because they want to, not because of some internal “user adoption” initiative.

Yet, it seems LinkedIn may have missed their opportunity.

Facebook takes on the workplace

A couple of years ago, social media giant Facebook announced that they were working on Facebook at Work.

“A connected workplace is a more productive workplace”

Facebook at Work has been dubbed both a LinkedIn and Google Drive killer — and it’s due for release this year.

Facebook at Work — ‘For companies who get things done’.

Facebook at Work is pretty much what it sounds like: A professional version of Facebook — but the company is quick to point out that the two function separately. Only available to your own organisation, it lets employees and teams interact with each other on a platform that most are probably already familiar with.

So far the new platform has only been available to several hundred organisations, however it looks as though it will be available to everyone… soon.

Slack: Team communication for the 21st century

For me, the answer to the workplace social network might already be with us in the form of Slack. The platform has been around for a little while now, but it’s really picking up in terms of it’s popularity and adoption.

Slack: bringing all the tools you’d need into one place

“Reclaim your workday.” That’s the statement Slack make on their website, along with a huge reduction in the time-curse that is email:

Less email. More productive. Our customers see an average 48.6% reduction in internal email, helping them enjoy a simpler, more pleasant, and more productive work life.

I’ve recently adopted it both within the workplace and with other special interest groups — and I can safely say it’s changing my view on team communications. The set-up of Slack is well suited to the modern way of working, and it’s easy integration with other platforms and tools (Google Drive, GitHub, Trello and Outlook, to name a few) makes it very appealing.

Not only can I communicate with specific people or teams, or project groups, but I now have somewhere to share social media feedback and best practice, showcase work by the team and have somewhere to communicate about non-work topics.

Organisations need to evaluate whether their current communications are enough, both to meet business needs and promote an effective, integrated team.

Chances are, they won’t be— and this is where social media comes in.

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