Social media is potentially a powerful tool for connecting like-minded people and enabling collaborative leadership. Social media means that connections can be made between people on a wider scale and at a faster rate than has been previously possible. We only have to look at examples from Egypt and Tunisa to see the strength of this. However, the use of social media as tool to enable collaborative leadership in the workplace is relatively unexplored.
There is no doubt that there is a lot of information about how to get involved in social media and even examples of where it’s helped people connect and share knowledge. However, we have a scattergun way of using social media in the work place and doubts about its relevance. In light of this, I propose a more methodical approach.
Firstly, establish why you want to use it and thread this purpose through the way you approach it. This should also help identify what is going to give you the most value, which tools to use and how you’re going to use them. If you are a business looking at social tools for your employees establishing the purpose of it is even more important. Do you want them to connect with each other to share knowledge? Promote your brand with customers? Part of this is checking that it aligns with your culture. For example, if your workplace is somewhere that puts a lot of value on face-to-face interaction then using social tools may not be a great cultural fit. There may not be a lot of motivation to use it.
You need to make sure your employees are motivated to use social media. I find the Daniel Pink approach of autonomy, mastery and purpose as a framework for motivation helpful here. How is your social media approach going to enable the autonomy and mastery of you or the people you are implementing it for? The beautiful thing about social media is that it is easy to demonstrate your mastery and appreciate that of others. However, autonomy can be hampered by the social policies and culture of the organisation you work for. How does your social media policy enable social interaction?
Social media is not for everyone and is not appropriate in all circumstances. But if you are clearly articulating what purpose you are using it for then you can decide whether it is for you or not and, if you do use it for business purposes, effectively enable the collaborative leadership of your people.