One of the biggest struggles in a dispersed team is to maintain a sense of connection with your coworkers. Social media can play a role in keeping the team together.
It was one of those days. Things just weren’t going right and I felt like everything – and everyone – was against me. I posted a frustrated, grumpy Tweet (squawk?) to Twitter. If this were a story in the traditional media about the “risks of social media” this is where you might expect the story to get really bad – the boss sees the tweet, and all hell breaks loose.
What actually happened was this: a coworker – someone I hadn’t yet met in person, and whom I hadn’t really gotten to know – IMed me privately to see if I was OK. They asked me if it was something at work that was bothering me, and if there was anything they could do to help. Almost instantly, my entire perspective on the day was changed. With that one, unexpected act of kindness and human concern, my frustration began to melt away, and I was able to end the day on an optimistic note.
When you work in the same office with your coworkers you get to know them and their lives through lunchroom conversations, happy hours, and even weekend get-togethers. Remote work doesn’t afford the same opportunities for building a three-dimensional picture of your teammates.
While it’s not a total solution, social media can play a role in bridging that connectedness gap. Here are a few tips for getting to know your team better through social media.
- Follow your fellow team members on Twitter. Twitter is a great way to get to know about what what your coworkers think about when they aren’t thinking about work. Whether it’s a new off-road bike they just bought, or a concert they attended over the weekend, Twitter gives you the bigger picture on someone in snapshot form. You may even discover some interests that you share in common!
- Send a friend request on Facebook – but be prepared for them to say “no”. For many people, facebook is place to share a more intimate picture of their lives – or where they open up and complain about their coworkers. While it can be a great place to get to know someone better, some people may not be comfortable sharing that much information with coworkers.
- Follow blogs – not everyone keeps a blog, but if they do it can be a terrific way to find out what they are passionate about. Ask your teammates if they blog, and subscribe to their blogs in your RSS reader.
- Don’t take it personally – when people get frustrated at work, they often vent to their social media circles. Be prepared for this, and don’t run and tattle to the boss the first time you see something less-than-positive about your team or your company. Just as after-hours conversations over beer should stay at the bar, sometimes what’s said on Twitter should stay on Twitter. It may just be their way of letting go of their frustrations and moving on.
- Lend an ear. While you don’t need to bring a coworker’s venting to the attention of the whole company, you can still act on it. Like my coworker, you might be the one to lend an understanding ear at just the right moment. If you pay attention, social media can give you the cue you need to turn someone’s day around.
Social media isn’t just for marketers and celebrities. People share more of their lives than ever before on the web, through Twitter, Facebook, and many other forums. For remote workers, it can be one of the best windows we have into the lives of the people we work with every day.
What about you? Do you have any tips for using social media to enhance team communication?