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Five ways IT pros can use social media to propel the business forward

The commercialization of IT has brought with it a multitude of challenges. But rather than fight the changes, some experts recommend embracing them.

I hear a lot from IT managers who get ticked off a little by the emphasis in media circles about the need for innovative thinking in IT. None of them deny the need, but most of them exist in reactive mode, and wouldn't have the time to innovate even if they had the resources.

So along comes commercialized IT -- smartphones and social media -- and managing a company's IT feels like cat herding. It becomes a dichotomy. IT folks, who love technology, almost resent the rate and manner in which new technology is hitting them.

In other words, the lines between business and personal communication are being blurred. So, as an IT pro, how do you navigate and leverage these new modes of communication and continue to keep both legal and the business happy?

I spoke to Len Couture, Managing Director, and Corinne Sklar, Vice President of Marketing, for Bluewolf.com, an agile business transformation company in New York City about this topic. They provided five tips for IT pros for letting social communication propel your business forward.

Embrace change. The younger and older generations have quite different views regarding what's appropriate and what's not. For example, many younger workers think that it's fine to send a thank you note via a text message. Older workers may be horrified by this. However, it's interesting to note that even more senior workers think it's fine to send a thank you note via email - which the generation before them would have frowned on. So things change. Be open to changing hierarchical structures. There's a major generational difference when it comes to attitudes toward hierarchies. The older generation is accustomed to more rigid hierarchical structure, while the generation born on the web came up at time when hierarchies weren't really in vogue. So while they might not think anything of texting the CEO, for the "old school," this kind of casual interaction with top leadership wouldn't happen. More flat structured communications, however, can drive innovation and keep leadership keenly in touch with the pulse of the organization. Help your organization understand the power of interpersonal communication: Current events in Egypt are an excellent case in how communication has fundamentally changed because of social media. In Egypt, the communication swelled and hit ‘critical mass.' This wouldn't have happened ten years ago, because someone would have intervened and altered the message before it hit critical mass. If social communication can overthrow dictators, imagine what it can do for your company. Lead social communication innovation internally: There's no point in standing in the way of these changes - those who do will find themselves left behind. CIOs and IT pros should embrace these changes and - if they want to really stand out - lead the innovation. This can be accomplished by influencing how these changes in communication are used from day-to-day. First, you figure out how it impacts the business, and then develop a strategy to embrace it. A good example of this may be found in how businesses are leveraging Chatter.com to harness their creative power and drive innovation. Demonstrate the value of collaborative communication: To get buy in for IT-led communication innovation, get your key business stakeholders' buy-in by showing how increasingly open communication will benefit the company by facilitating higher quality, more efficient communication.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

10 comments
gljaeger
gljaeger

For those who think the article missed the point, you need to read it again. Yes, I know IT is about communication, yet how many of you actually believe IT leads their company into new and innovative means of communication. Not very many actually. Toni is looking at how the world and the business place is viewed by a majority of its workers. Almost all of them, including those that have been on the line for their entire 25 year career, want direct communication links to the President and CEO. And they want responses. We all look for different things in articles; some hit our needs and some appear to miss the mark. For some who were looking to receive a technology overview were probably disappointed; those looking to try to grab an understanding of how to use social media were probably somewhat disappointed. For those like me who want to get more insight into what others think were probably satisfied. Toni is correct about the hierarchy of today???s business. I have watched, and been a part of, companies that have added, and added, and added layers of middle management in the guise of becoming a more global and industry leader. what they all missed is that they were losing the battle of loyalty with their own workforce; they failed to keep the young and innovative communications the company was known for. All companies need to keep these five points on the wall ??? they are reminders of what communication is to become. While social media communication will not totally replace corporate advertising, sales channel communication, corporate communication; it will add to it, and become just as mainstream as email, television ads, promotional materials, etc.. Do not leave services such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds out of your methods of communicating with your workers, clients, potential clients, and potential workers. While they all seem to be created and used by ???young??? people, that is not always the case. Do not be fooled ??? not embracing this new communication wave will leave your company and you far behind in the proverbial dust. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, sharing, linking, RSS ??? all are here to stay and grow. To succeed tomorrow you will need them.

juliebeman
juliebeman

Right before reading this article I put this on my to-do list: "find articles re: herding cats in IT - process for managing reqs with out-of-control customers used to instant gratification re: social/smart" Hahahahaha! Thanks providing a place to start. Once again, Toni, your timing couldn't be better.

Snak
Snak

I am considered (not by me, but there you go) as an 'older' worker, being in my 50's, but would not be too concerned about getting a Thank You via text (unless it's 'how did you get this number?') . I would normally reply (by text) and request a copy by email - as I use these as part of my evidence for Performace Review Meetings.

Neil Leacy
Neil Leacy

An interesting article but this is a technology that is still in the frontier town stage of development i.e. anyone who's strong enough and loud enough can rule. >> many younger workers think that it???s fine to send a thank you note via a text message. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Many young and not so young workers see instant messaging, facebook and Twittter, et al, as an integral part of their daily lives. Often to the detriment of their employers both in time wasting and network security. Western world youth are shouting louder (as always) but unfortunately the overall message is not world peace, goodwill to all men, but the latest gossip (celeb or otherwise) or youtube must-see creating a distracting noise in multitudes of bite-sized chunks. On the other hand social media can bring in other customers, especially as mobile devices finally become sci-fi reality capable of so much. The only concern is would the profit coming in from the customers make up for the loss of worth that an employer constantly distracted by tweets, beeps and pokes brings to their job? Neil

shaatarn
shaatarn

Interesting article, but i don't see how this is a social media article. It seems like good old fashion communication to me - which IT has always been about. I guess many IT people need to know more about communication anyway, so it is raising awareness. BUT, imagine what social media can do for your company! There is very little in this article about this. You can even do this internally with groups, communities online within organisations to bring awareness of what each other is doing. How about an article about that. Some slightly revolutionary stuff is needed in organisations if everyone is going to work together and get the best results that an organisation can get. At the same time, people may even enjoy going to work more. That would be revolutionary!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Do not leave services such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds out of your methods of communicating with your workers, clients, potential clients, and potential workers. While they all seem to be created and used by young people, that is not always the case. Do not be fooled not embracing this new communication wave will leave your company and you far behind in the proverbial dust. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, sharing, linking, RSS all are here to stay and grow." That's great, but it's too early to begin abandoning 'traditional' communications and moving solely to these new media. Where I work, there's still a sizable minority of employees who don't know how to use a computer beyond the basis tasks they've been taught, don't have their own systems or network accounts at work, and don't have a computer at home. Frankly, it's also still too early to center long-term plans around some of these resources. Today's Facebook is yesterday's MySpace is the day before's AOL. Be aware the tools will change frequently, and there may not be sufficient ROI to follow the crowd.

juliebeman
juliebeman

I agree with everything you've said. Thanks for posting.

joe
joe

Some good ideas here, Neil. I was struck by the statement, "...imagine what it can do for your business". Some reluctance must have to do with the free-flowing uncontrolled nature of these new communication media. The majority of military, government, and business organizations have developed with the notion that hierarchical control of the message (and of people) is both necessary and beneficial to achieve goals. This doesn't fit that model, and actually subverts it. If you cannot control the message, the "new" media can just as easily drive business AWAY from you, and poses all kinds of potential threats, if you let your fears affect your decision making. I agree that businesses fail to adapt to emergent media at their own peril, but understand why people in positions responsible for managing risk are hesitant to just jump in. Finally, the author's last paragraph does not summarize anything, and was actually a topic that deserved some fleshing out- I found myself looking for the rest of it (where's the beef?).

newtonian
newtonian

At some point we are going to have to choose which ways we are going to primarily communicate, both for business and social means. Unfortunately, business and social boundaries have become blurred - good or bad - I don't know yet. I agree that a constant stream of bit-sized chunks of information [sic] is not real communication - it is a pseudo approximation for communication - a form of shorthand that is left for the message to be interpreted by the reader. There maybe even a sort of lingua-franca that is developing in those who are the most initiated (experienced) into these realms. I prefer non-ambiguous messages; not because I am unable to think, but rather I want to maximise the use of my time and not be sucked into arguments or discussions based upon half-truths or a form of Chinese whispers. As I said at the beginning, unless we get a handle on this and choose what is socially acceptable as a means of communication, then we could unwittingly be alienating a very large number of the population. (We are an aging society.) The mainstream media fuels the debate, because only the other day I heard when listening to the radio how x numbers of staff had been made redundant via being informed through an email message. Putting pen to paper or word processor to paper does still seem to provide some sort of cerebral connection between writer and receiver - the former being the most acceptable. Of course it is nice if such letters are actually signed by hand rather than having a scanned in signature inserted at the bottom. Faster - slicker is not always better! They (social media etc) are nice fun toys and I even enjoy such things within the right context; who wouldn't. Glyn

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

In the consumer world, people participate in social media because they want to. I don't think there's a way to force employees to update community (department) sites if they're not interested. It becomes another routine report, usually in addition to the existing ones and not as a replacement. I agree with you that the original article is long on theory and short on practice. I also question the applicability of the Egyptian comparison. Unlike a popular but relatively brief flurry of activity, business must approach social media with an eye toward long-term sustainability.

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