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Social Media at Work Increases Productivity?

Social Media at WorkAmong the usual Gen Y stereotypes is the belief that, as 'digital natives,' we are tied 24/7 to social media and start to panic if prevented from updating our status or tweeting our whereabouts all day long. Compared to the pernicious rumor or our laziness, it's not the worst belief about the youngest generation in the workforce, and now, according to the HBR Conversation blog, this love of microblogging can be harnessed by companies to actually increase productivity at the office.
The post recounts the stories of two companies that have used social media tools specifically designed for business, such as Yammer, to speed up communication and improve results. But don't just rush in to microblogging without thinking it through. There are several steps necessary to get the most out these tools.
  • Start small and monitor results. Consider pursuing a strategy first coined in The Economist: Ubiquity First, Revenue Later. Build an audience first and then uncover how it can lead to increased employee productivity or faster time to competence. Since microblogging is a modest expense, (often as low as $1.00 per user per month) there need not be elaborate ROI studies prior to piloting the service. However, you do need to identify key business goals you want to measure as microblogging rolls out across the company, such as increased brainstorming or greater ease in seeking feedback from employees. Then follow the impact on revenue.
  • Provide training to employees. Train employees in how to use microblogging effectively, as well as in your social media policies and guidelines for sending signals or alerts through out the enterprise. Training can consist of webinars, online training programs, or face-to-face Lunch & Learns.
  • Integrate Microblogging into your workflow. Lead by example when you launch microblogging inside your company.... use microblogging to get work done... so it is a productivity tool rather than "another thing" to do during busy days.
What's been your experience of microblogging, wikis and other social media at work -- a useful tool for fast feedback or an excuse for the guy in the next cubicle to ask the whole office what sandwich he should eat for lunch? Jason Fried, for one, seems to think that 'pinging' colleagues via social media is a good way to eliminate some of the distractions that hamper office productivity.

(Image of social media icons by Ivan Walsh, CC 2.0)