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When Social Media Goes to Work

Productivity photo When Social Media Goes to Work

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Does your boss think social media is equivalent to time wasting? That used to be the attitude of a lot of big companies. Corporations would block popular sites like MySpace and Facebook, assuming that their employees were using these cutting edge connectivity tools to play Mafia Wars or share photos with their friends.

But in the last year or so, we’ve seen a change in that kind of thinking. Maybe it’s the seemingly unstoppable wave of Facebook expansion. Or maybe it’s the fact that many of these naysayers are now using social media themselves. But the view of social media in the executive audience has been transformed from “distracting nuisance” to “productivity tool”.

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By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Does your boss think social media is equivalent to time wasting? That used to be the attitude of a lot of big companies. Corporations would block popular sites like MySpace and Facebook, assuming that their employees were using these cutting edge connectivity tools to play Mafia Wars or share photos with their friends.

But in the last year or so, we’ve seen a change in that kind of thinking. Maybe it’s the seemingly unstoppable wave of Facebook expansion. Or maybe it’s the fact that many of these naysayers are now using social media themselves. But the view of social media in the executive audience has been transformed from “distracting nuisance” to “productivity tool”.

Perhaps the biggest adoption of social media has come in the use of real time tools like Twitter to monitor competitor activity and manage customer relations and services. it seems like a day doesn’t go by that we don’t hear another “United Breaks Guitars” or Kevin Smith incident. But companies are also using Twitter in a positive manner, taking advantage of the service’s sense of immediacy to provide need levels of service for their customers. Best Buy’s Twelpforce is just one example of how an industry is being transformed by new tools and technologies.

There has also been a change in corporation’s approach to productivity tools. In the old days, mainstream American executives weren’t happy unless they were getting their services from mega corporations like IBM or Microsoft. Now some of the biggest providers of “software as a service” are also some of America’s smallest companies. 37 Signals is a perfect example of this. We use their Basecamp tool for project management and their Highrise software for CRM. These tools are inherently social as we’re constantly creating project networks that can include Z-team members, clients and third parties. We’ve also switched over to Google Applications for our business needs. While Google may be a megacorp as well, they approach business differently than many of their competitors. One of the great advantages of using Google as a vendor was none of our staff needed to be trained up on the new software. Everyone had been using Gmail (and even Google Docs) for years. For us, the ability to share information through Docs, Mail, and Chat from just about anywhere far outweighed any bloated functionality we might be giving up by using different applications. For a globally distributed workforce like us collaboration and accessability were key factors in deciding to make the switch.

Even blogging is enjoying new life in this enlightened age of Corporate Social Media use. One of the most effective recent thought son this was Steve Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash” post that he shared with viewers of the Apple homepage. The impact of using a blog platform was so powerful that Adobe felt compelled to respond with a massive advertising campaign (including placement with the NEW YORK TIMES).

As business managers and owners are coming to realize, social media is more friend than foe. It’s no longer a nice little technology to play around and have fun in (although it strives to do that!), it’s the opportunity to hear and be heard by millions of people and to boost productivity across the board.

How is your company using social media to help you with your daily assignments? What are your favorite “work’ social media tools?

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