Making Professional Social Media Usage More Efficient

A growing number of employers have not only recognized the value of social media but have begun implementing social media sites in their internal networks. How can social media in the work place be kept efficient and professional?
* Do not feel a pressing need to post an update simply to fill in a void. If there has not been an update, a simple “project is now X% complete” is sufficient.
* Human resource changes within a team are relevant updates. A new programmer has been hired. The project lead for a team has left. However, the professional social media updates can skip marriages, births and personal vacation announcements.
* Create social media areas or “projects” available only to team members to discuss the project at hand. Solicit external input when brainstorming or problems arise and the team doesn’t have an immediate solution. Otherwise, limit external inputs and access. A constant stream of explanation requests and “wow, that’s cool technology” are not value added.
* Keep professional social media profiles, sites and discussions professional. It has been joked that college students should not post anything they would not want a future employer to see in five years on Facebook. This is all the more true when your employer owns the social media site.
* Employers can apply non-harassment policies, corporate communication standards and information controls to their social networks as they do to brochures and company Twitter accounts. For example, personally identifiable information and restricted information should never be shared on a social media network – corporate intranet or internet, since both are essentially public to hundreds or thousands of people.
* Use professional social networks to improve corporate communications. Announce upcoming plant shut downs, health screenings, major contract wins or general information notices on the social network. However, social networks do not replace other information mediums such as email, manager announcements during meetings or notices placed in work areas.
* Social media networks can enable quick discussions and chats between two or three people. However, employees should create separate meetings online or offline when multiple people are involved simultaneously. Remember that online communications do not replace all other forms of communication, especially when the conversation is the equivalent of several people speaking at once.
* Use workflow management software to route documents or tasks to the appropriate person. Do not use social media as a way of giving formal approval in place of signatures, printed or typed. It is simpler and less error prone to use the formal method of approvals in case a legal review or audit arises later.
* Do use social networks to post links to work related technical articles to those who are interested instead of copying sharing copies of magazines. However, it is not wise to copy and paste article content onto a company network, since this could be a violation of intellectual property rights of the magazine.
* As with any social media site, set personal time limits on its usage in order to maximize your own personal productivity.
* Professional social media sites are a recent development and the ethical and legal issues are still evolving. To quote fellow IIE blogger Marc Resnick, “There is a lot more to Professional Social Media than is addressed in this article.  If you feel over your head, please seek out some expert advice,” be it legal, accounting, corporate policy or information security concerns.

Filed under: An IE in IT

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Tamara Wilhite is the IE in IT blogger for the IISE. She is a Six Sigma green belt with experience in IT, PDM software, the defense industry and recycling industries. She currently works as a freelance technical writer.