Facebook’s big move into social networking for business has the blogosphere and social media buzzing about “social collaboration.” The term has been around for a couple of years, but now it has new momentum.
We were a bit puzzled by the term the first time we heard it. It is redundant, and if you tried to parse it without understanding its origins, you would say it is about people working together. It appears at first glance to be one of those vague terms marketers like to use to convey excitement without saying anything specific. However, it is an accurate term if you know the context: using social media technology to work together.
We have been using social media in our work since it arrived. In the early part of this century, we were in globally dispersed consulting companies separated from our colleagues by hundreds or thousands of miles. Social media was essential. The work day was a constant flow of tips and advice to and from colleagues, and we collaborated on remote projects. Our tools of choice at that time were Yahoo Messenger and a private Wiki.
When we look at how the nature of work has changed and where it is going, a transition to social media seems inevitable.
- Communication is changing. Email is very useful for more formal conversations, but when we are sharing knowledge, it is much less so. If you do not put the knowledge in a safe and shareable location, it disappears into the black hole we call an archive. People are sharing knowledge more than ever, and without a knowledge sharing platform, things get lost.
- Organizations are changing. The economic downturn and job losses of 2009 were different. Unlike previous cycles, where people were hired back into jobs when the economy improved, millions of jobs disappeared entirely. Organizations are leaner and flatter. More work is done by teams of peers rather than a hierarchical management structure, and the teams are often not co-located. The new generation of teammates grew up on instant communication, and they expect to find it in the workplace.
- Traditional management is struggling, supplanted by leaders who instead of fearing loss of control have learned how to be team coaches. This new breed of leaders is outperforming its competitors because their teams are empowered to reach for success.
- The gig economy is growing. Some estimates are that by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be independent workers. People need to be connected to survive in that the new economy, and you may find yourself employee teams that are a mix of staff and contractors.
Social media collaboration presents a challenge for business organizations. The millennial generation will soon be in charge. They grew up on social media and SMS messaging. They will communicate and collaborate using social media, on their platform or yours. Our recommendation is that you get ahead of that curve while you can.
1. Pontefract, Dan. Flat Army. Jossey-Bass, 2013.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.