With advances in technology and culture, the lines of work and play are being blurred – but how far can you go?

 

Comfort Zones…

Remember when the introduction of ‘dress down’ Friday meant heading into work in your ‘weekend clothes’? Initially this felt like quite a strange concept and one that took a lot of planning: How to look casual, but still smart? How to look professional but not stuffy? How far do you go in ditching heels for pumps? It was truly a dilemma in the early days.

Likewise, remember when you were first asked to attend an evening drinks event with prospects or clients? Out came the little black dress – the little black dress that was usually only reserved for date nights, yet now had to make an appearance in front of your relatively unknown colleagues – was it too short or too tight? The line is very fine in terms of getting this right!

As the lines of your social life start to blur with that of your working world it’s clear that there needs to be a certain degree of separation. But when being ‘social’ becomes a staple task in your daily routine, just how far do you take it without feeling like you’re wasting time? How do you judge what’s appropriate, and how will this help your company grow?

I am, of course, referring to the wonderful world of social media. Like it or loathe it, it’s here to stay, so here are a few pointers to help you find that social balance.

Online Worlds…

When the World Wide Web was created in the early nineties, I doubt many imagined just how far the web would actually merge into our daily lives. With the sudden surge of social media platforms, the internet has changed the way we communicate both on a personal level and now also in business. Now firmly in the midst of in the ‘digital age’, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are becoming the primary communication channels for news, marketing and media – but the question is: how should you use it for business?

The answer to this very much depends on your role and responsibilities, your company and their standpoint on it, and how comfortable your employer is with the various platforms. However, there are some points that it’s worth being aware of, as key platforms can really help to make your life easier, saving you time and money on tasks that you already carry out as part of your day-to-day role.

Before we get into this, one thing to keep in mind is that it will not necessarily be your role to decide whether or not the business engages with social media – and it is wrong to assume that just because these platforms are there, your company should be using them. A strategy needs to be developed to define the marketing, customer service and communications roles of each platform – and then from here your activity will become clear.

We wouldn’t advocate you using social media for work unless there has been a strategy agreed company-wide, or at very least there has been an overarching policy put in place. However, whether you’re currently active on social media or not, we feel it’s crucial that you’re aware of the opportunities available. This way you can liaise with your marketing teams or board to see how you could put these free platforms to use.

Staff Communications

If you work within a business that regularly sends internal newsletters as a way of issuing company-wide communications; are in a company that has peer groups, or innovation teams to share experiences, knowledge and ideas; and regularly work to gauge staff sentiment, then the tools available via the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn could well excite you.

Enabling you to run groups and discussions online in a closed environment (i.e. where only those you want to see the informationrmation can see it), Facebook and LinkedIn ensure staff can access information 24/7 from remote locations, and have a channel through which they can have their say.

This can also work the other way and you can feed out informationrmation this way, rather than having to rely on lengthy, monthly newsletters for example, which very few people read. Replace this with the logging on daily for a quick update, and we think you might find you get more people engaging.

LinkedIn can require a bit of training to get your head around as it’s a platform that works in quite a unique way, but most people are confident using Facebook these days, and often have an account anyway. By placing your information on this familiar platform you’re actually making it more convenient for them to interact with the company. Social media groups also provide the opportunity for two-way engagement, rather than one-way communication (like a newsletter or noticeboard), so you are much more likely to get feedback and comments via this method.

You can also very easily run polls and surveys, and share the results with a group, so again you have a quick easy route to sourcing staff views at the click of a button.

Customer Communications

Facebook and LinkedIn are as useful for internal communications as they are for external communications. With the right planning Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, are very powerful, free ways of getting your message out there. This can be executed from a customer service or marketing point of view as both involve communicating to your customers and feeding them information, quickly and responsively.

It doesn’t really matter what sector you work in – the principal is the same: distribute your good news stories, inform people of new products or services, respond to customer enquiries or complaints, and keep in touch to help build strong customer relations – it’s all there to be done on social media, and all for free.

Research

One of the most valuable uses for social media is research. LinkedIn can help you research people or companies that your team is looking to do business as there’s a whole host of information available on that platform that can help that first call or meeting go much more seamlessly. It can also save you hours of googling as there is a vast amount of information in one place.

Research on Twitter helps you see the latest hot topics in your industry – what people are talking about, or what various people’s stance is on certain issue. This is a great way of ensuring you keep your finger on the pulse and stay in the know. Follow key people as well as industry bodies and any corporate partners and you’ll be amazed at what you can find out!

Thereis a whole new world to be explored in the corporate domain of social media. If you’re in it, you need to be careful and controlled – if you’re not, you could be missing out by being over cautious. It’s another of those ‘fine line’ scenarios, but if you get it right there’s so many possibilities available.

Pitman Training is launching a new social media training course in the autumn. For more information pop over to the team’s stand at Office* or find out more at www.pitman-training.co.uk

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Claire Lister is the Owner/MD of Pitman Training Group (www.pitman-training.com). Pitman is a market leader in the PA and secretarial training industry, delivering exceptional results for tens of thousands of students each year. Pitman also provide ... (Read More)

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