AccelaWork’s founder had another article in the electronic edition of the Hamilton County Business Magazine. This piece was about productivity and social media.
We’ve published the article in full below:
One of the hottest buzzwords in the news today is “social media.” Cable news networks are using Twitter to capture public opinion. Everyone from teenagers to retirees are joining Facebook. The professional pick up line is no longer “may I have your business card” but “I’d like to ask you to join my professional network on LinkedIn.” These social media services are incredibly popular, but can they actually be used to benefit you and your business?
The challenge in embracing any new phenomenon is more than just figuring out how to use the tools and speak the lingo. It requires that we truly understand what is going on and why it is relevant in our lives. To use social media productively, we must get past the hype and focus on the underlying concepts. Once we see how this trend actually operates, we can determine how it applies to our lives.
To begin to understand “social media” we should start with the opposite term: “mass media.” This newspaper, your favorite radio station and a monthly glossy magazine are all examples of mass media. This is information and programming distributed to the masses which is generally representative of the masses. Most television programs, for example, are designed to appeal to millions of people. A sitcom written in an obscure foreign language about a niche topic would never make it to prime time.
Social media, then, is the notion that information and programming can be distributed to small groups of people without concern for mass appeal. Before the age of the Internet, this was infeasible. You simply couldn’t write columns on extremely unusual topics and publish them for anyone to see. A mass media outlet would not sponsor such endeavors. But the Internet allows anyone to be a publisher and anyone to find and consume obscure content. Social media enables all of us to have our own tiny mass media empires focused on our own topics and designed for populations with a common interest.
For each social media tool, then, it’s helpful to find a corresponding analogue in the world of mass media. LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), for example, is a website that enables business professionals to track the careers of themselves and their business contacts, and to use those resources to network and build business. That makes LinkedIn a social media form of a mass media tool called the telephone book. Instead of publishing the same phone book for everyone in a geographic area, LinkedIn provides a detailed phone book focused just on the people in your personal network and their contacts. That means that an easy way to use LinkedIn productively is to consider how to use the phone book productively: namely, to find people you know, look up people you meet, and reach out your contacts to help you make new connections.
The social media tool Facebook is designed to let individuals publish information about themselves, their interests and their personal affiliations, and share that information with their “friends.” That means Facebook is somewhat analogous to the society pages in an classy newspaper. Those columns are mostly announcements about important people. Facebook is effectively your own society page for all of your friends and fans. You can use it to let others know what you are doing, as well as keep up with the antics of those who are important to you.
With a little contemplation, you can usually find a corresponding mass media example of any social media tool. The photo-sharing site Flickr is very much like your own personal coffee table book publishing house. Blogging services like WordPress and Blogger correspond to your own personal newspaper column. Twitter is just soundbites captured in written form. YouTube is your own personal television station. That website even offers a poignant tagline: “Broadcast Yourself.”
In this sense, social media and mass media really aren’t that different. Social media is just mass media with you at the center and targeted on a precise subset of the masses. The same strategies are appropriate, they just need to be tuned for what you can personally accomplish and what is most effective among your target population. And ultimately, there’s still no higher honor than making the jump between social media and mass media. Great bloggers occasionally write books. Great authors maintain a blog between novels. There’s plenty of room for both social and mass media.
Working productively with social media tools requires understanding the social media phenomenon. Through the incredible power of the Internet, media production is now accessible to everyone and media targeting can be far more precise. Become more effective in your use of social media by mapping new tools to older examples. Remember what YouTube recommends: “Broadcast Yourself.”
There are two key questions around the idea of social media and productivity. First: can we use these services to productive ends where they help us to grow our businesses and improve our lives? And second: can we efficiently and effectively use social media networks?
The answer to both is a resounding yes. For more information, contact our business consultants for more information on how to use social media wisely to increase productivity growth.