Social media – just another fad?

You may not have spotted that this week is International Social Media Week and across the globe events are being organised to explore and dissect every aspect of social media. While this event may well have escaped your attention it is hard to ignore how tools such as Twitter and Facebook have become integrated in to almost every aspect of society.

Radio 4’s Today programme tweets updates; Marks and Spencer want me to befriend them on Facebook; my colleagues all network via LinkedIn; even my local library send me Facebook messages. Like it or loath it you can’t deny that social media has changed the way we interact with each other in business as well as leisure.

I must confess to coming late to this brave new world. I was a social media cynic and dipped my toe in the water only when I realised I was in danger of being left behind. But unlike wearing drainpipes when everyone else has moved on to flares this is not a fad to be quickly overtaken by the Next Great Thing.

With customers and employees alike businesses are realising that social media has a real role to play in connecting with a younger generation as well as those of us who appreciate the immediacy, simplicity and autonomy these tools provide. It offers businesses two great advantages:

  • providing people with a voice – the opportunity to join in, comment, share information and opinion. This is the opportunity for people to be heard and for you to listen – there has never been an easier way to keep your finger on the pulse of what customers and employees are thinking.
  • the opportunity to engage – people opt in to these media so inevitably are more receptive to your message and open to building a relationship through two-way communication.

The best advice, whether for personal or business use,  is to start small and use social media selectively – the flexibility allows you to learn as you go along. Don’t jump in and sign up to everything only to find yourself overwhelmed and unable to sustain relationships. Within your business, try piloting a new tool on a particular project or user group; what you learn from this will make a wider roll out much more successful.

If you’d like to learn more about social media and its value in employee communication, read our new briefing on our website.

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Why do managers hide behind email?

I wonder how many managers saw the news story last week  about Carlisle City Council telling employees to ‘clock off for non-work chat’ and thought ‘that could have been me’.

An email sent with good intention to raise productivity has had exactly the opposite effect by disengaging employees and of course generating the type of publicity that every organisation dreads along the way.

For managers faced with a difficult message to tell their teams ‘hiding behind’ an email rather than have a face to face conversation can feel like an easy option. They haven’t got time for a discussion on the matter, they don’t entirely agree with the message or they simply prefer to avoid confrontation (who doesn’t?!)

With so many ways to communicate now it becomes more important to select the right tool for the job.  And when it comes to difficult messages, particularly where there is a chance they will be misunderstood or prove controversial, nothing is better than a face to face conversation.  Sending out an email might be a quicker way of getting a message to everyone but it doesn’t allow you to gauge reaction and refine the message accordingly, to read body language or to provide instant answers to questions.

Of course most managers understand this but many just don’t feel equipped to have those difficult conversations.  Some basic communication training can empower managers to talk confidently with an audience, diffuse aggression, avoid confrontation and be open to feedback.  Regular face to face communication can strengthen teams, improve engagement and provide the opportunity for dialogue.  Can your business afford not to encourage this?