5 Lessons that Social Media Can Teach Managers

February 16, 2014

Managers obviously play a significant role in the cultural health of an organization.  Thankfully, has written these useful tips for those in a management position.  When all else fails, why not look to social media for advice?

1. You Don’t Need Catch Up Meetings

In the business world, managers often use meetings to get people up to speed. However, catch up meetings are expensive and inefficient because they require organization, planning and a halt to productive work.

Social media is proof that hundreds of millions of people can be on the same page without every meeting scheduled face-to-face. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter alone, you receive real-time updates on political events, product launches, research findings, sport games and birthdays, to name just a few examples. People engaged in the same social media communities are always up to speed.

With a variety of internal communication tools, business teams can now post Q1 sales results, announce progress on major software updates or share the new copy for a marketing campaign. Managers can use continuous, web-based discussion to get people on the same page without gathering in the same room.

2. Build Collective Knowledge

Information is often stored in silos in which one person at a business has particular knowledge. In the social media world, people elevate the limited knowledge of the individual into the collective knowledge of the many.

Wikipedia is an outstanding example of this. In the past, encyclopedia publishers had to track down one expert who could write an entry and perhaps update it a few years later. On Wikipedia, multiple experts can write and watchful contributors can make sure the knowledge evolves with current events and new discoveries.

If only one person knows how a business process works, that’s a risk. When that person goes on vacation or leaves the company, your team is stranded without critical knowledge. It could be something as simple as how a firewall is set up. Lose your firewall expert, and suddenly you have to hire an expert or replace the firewall if a problem arises.

As a manager, you have to encourage social documentation that lets people view, modify and add to the common pool of knowledge. A company Wiki or team document sharing system can ensure that knowledge is saved and grown rather than lost.

3. Solve Problems Collaboratively

Crowd-sourcing is one of the most powerful problem-solving tools to emerge from social media. Companies can now post big data challenges, graphic design projects, marketing campaigns or open source software on social sites and watch as people compete or collaborate to get better results.

In traditional business, managers delegate problems to an individual or small group. Instead, managers can use internal social tools to post the toughest challenges before wide groups of employees who really can’t meet (in person or digitally) to flesh out a solution in a limited period of time.

For instance, marketing departments often have a hard time coming up with great slogans, product names, event names and other language. Instead of pinning the responsibility on a few people, a marketing manager could crowd-source suggestions on the company’s internal social platform. Jane in finance and John from IT will bring new perspectives, spark new ideas and ultimately contribute to the final wording that blends the best suggestions.

4. Break Down Departmental Divides

In a typical business, different departments are unaware of what the others are doing. This leads to overlap, rivalry and generally uncoordinated efforts.

Social media has proven that people from very different walks of life — different departments, if you will — can coordinate and come together for a common cause. When you look at some of the most powerful political movements of the digital age, like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street, you see how social media helps disparate people share a vision and act on it. In 2012, you also saw how Israeli and Iranians, on the opposite sides of a bitter conflict, used social media to deliver messages of peace and understanding.

Social media offers plenty of evidence that managers can use social technology to create bridges between departments and build a more cohesive workplace.

5. Elevate Communication and Culture over Hierarchy

On many social media sites, the quality of content comes before fame and rank. On Twitter, everyone has the potential to have their voice heard and build a following. On StumbleUpon, every piece of content has the potential to rise in popularity and gain visibility.

This openness allows digital communities and cultures to grow throughout the social media world. Everyone feels included.

In businesses, however, hierarchy and lunch room dynamics can limit communication and a shared sense of culture. New recruits chat with new recruits, and executives eat lunch with executives. When business ideas flow strictly from the top down, employees feel alienated.

Managers can build a tighter, more inclusive corporate culture by cultivating a social media mentality. Just by talking with junior employees, soliciting their ideas, inviting them to lunch and building relationships, managers can break down the imaginary barriers that naturally disappear in social media. With or without a social tool, managers can help people feel like they belong to a community.

Ultimately, a company with fewer meetings, smarter collaboration and more unity is going to be more productive and require less hands-on management. Great teachers create students that can teach themselves, and great managers create teams that can manage themselves.

  • The key lesson from social media is that managers need strategies and tools that open lines of communication between employees, departments and different levels of the corporate ladder. In the past, business dialogue was primarily top down, trapped in meeting rooms and segmented in small groups. In the future, conversations will be horizontal, public, and shared by workforces of any size.

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