Monday, December 08, 2014

How to Help Your Team Use Social Media Productively

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Social media is all about connection and networking, but it's also distraction and procrastination in their finest, pixelated forms.

Help your team use social media productively with these tips.

Define the End Goals for Social Media Use

Who's doing what, and why?

Social media professionals know that without clear goals, social media use becomes a chaotic mess of button-clicking and key-tapping. You have to know what you're attempting in order to know if you're getting close.

What are the end goals for social media in your business and for your team?

Define these and you are giving your team members a way to quickly determine if their use of social media is helping to reach those goals.

Discuss Limits for Social Media Use

Defining goals and assigning roles will help your team members know how to use social media in a productive way... that is, in a way that is helping them to reach those goals.

For some, social media use is great for a few minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, for a couple of status updates a day, for a distraction on break time or for those five-minute intervals in between meetings.

For others, social media may require more intensive time and input: a few hours crafting updates, researching analytics, finding or creating great content to share.

Discuss how the over-arching goals - and each person's role in helping reach those goals - necessitate different limits on social media for each person. Then ask your team members to set their own limits, as appropriate.

Encourage Real Breaks

Taking regular breaks is actually great for productivity. But a ten-minute break of browsing Facebook doesn't come with the same mental and physical payback of a ten-minute brisk walk outside, or chat and cup of tea with a coworker.

However, our social norms and work environments often surreptitiously encourage the wrong kind of break: the social media, mind-numbing kind. It's easy to pull up a new tab and idle away five minutes, and no one looks unproductive because they're still staring at their computers.

But leaving the office to go for a ten-minute walk?
Asking a coworker to step down to the lobby for a cuppa and quick chat?

That's not easy to "get away with." You can't disguise that sort of behavior as real work, the way you can with social media binging.

The answer is to encourage real breaks instead of making your people feel like they need to pull them off on the sly.

Education over Enforcement

You can make all sorts of rules about social media, and some of them might be really great rules. Really effective.

Knowledge is the real power, though, and educating people works a lot better than enforcing rules.

You don't want to waste time having endless round-table discussions about social media and its effect on our productivity. You do want to help your team understand how social media can be either a powerful tool or a deadly distraction, based on their use.

To help educate your team, you can

share articles, studies, and data
ask for their own insight and experience
talk about apps and extensions that streamline social media
set up reminders of social media goals
continue to encourage real breaks
call in a professional to teach techniques for social media use
find the expert on your team and ask for help.

The Habit of Asking

One small but powerful habit can help your team more than anything else. It's a simple question that each person asks and then answers:

"What am I doing right now?"

It's the question to ask anytime someone wakes up mindlessly surfing the Internet, scrolling through Facebook, lost in Reddit or Twitter. It's the question to ask when one project or task is over and people are hanging out in that dangerous dead space before the next project begins.

"What am I doing right now?" is a simple but powerful question when asked and then answered, immediately and honestly.

"I'm looking at pictures of other people's lives."
"I'm reading stupid articles about celebrities."
"I'm searching for a good joke to share."
"I'm trying out photo filters."
"I'm trying to think of a clever status update."

When your people learn to ask and answer that question, they can't ignore what they're doing. Or not doing.

In some cases, what they are doing is perfectly legitimate, and they can feel good about that:

"I'm posting my daily update to our company Facebook page."
"I'm sharing news from the conference I attended."
"I'm live-tweeting this event."
"I'm editing product photos."
"I'm finding great content to share with our followers."

When you and your whole team know what the social media goals are and get in the habit of thinking about how to use social media well, you get productive social media use.

That's an update worth sharing.

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See also:

Free collaboration software
Free collaboration tools
Free online collaboration
Team collaboration software and tools
Social collaboration platform