Where does social media fit into project management?

Paul Naybour

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade, you are probably already involved in many levels of social networking for both your professional and personal lives. Social media has become as much a part of our days as texting a friend or saying ‘hi’ to a colleague in the hallway.
Not only that, but social networks are now about much more than informing the world that you’ve just had a cup of coffee (although some people still do that). These days they form an important element of business, and can be used intelligently by companies to connect with their clients and to connect departments and teams internally and so improve project management communications.
But what about project management? Where do social networks fit in to the project manager’s matrix, and how can you use these tools more effectively to assist you in your day to day operations? By understanding how the flow of information is presented and how people use social media today, project managers may just be able to open up new lines of communication and new ways of sharing information with their teams and stakeholders.

Can social media do better than shared folders?

The short answer is yes. Think about how information is shared or has been in the past. Endless versions of documents in hard to find shared folders on the server, endlessly forwarded emails with the latest version of something attached and over complicated intranets with limited search capability. Modern social media can do so much better.
The beauty of social media is that it is all hosted on the internet, so documents can be updated then and there, and people can be notified in very clever ways. Searches are also easier; for instance simply tagging something with #budget or #scope will enable users to find all the messages or documents relating to that element with a single click.

Which social media format is right?

Your choice of social media will depend on what information you are looking to share, who to, and how often.

  • Realtime news (Twitter format): Far more accessible than reams of one liner emails clogging your inbox, the limited characters and easy indexing provided by the hashtag make this format a popular choice for project teams looking to stay in touch in a simple manner.
  • Community sharing (Facebook, Google+ or Yammer): Facebook can be a scary prospect, as it can be difficult for workers to filter out personal stuff from work stuff. However, the format works, and other providers are finding ways to replicate this format in a more professional environment. Consider how project events could be captured on a timeline. If someone is missing from the team for a day, they can simply browse the timeline when they return to get updates on the status.
  • Wiki space: The flexibility of Wiki type formats means they can serve as a backbone for a team’s small online notebook, or can be expanded into an entire intranet for the company. Wikis are a great way of creating functional space for your team, without any need for you to manage it actively as an administrator.

Of course these are not the only methods of sharing via social networks. Video platforms like Vimeo and YouTube allow you to distribute information in a more engaging manner, and newer crowdsourcing intelligence applications demonstrate how problem solving can be more structured and less time consuming with the use of technology. Finding the right social media channel or application for your team will depend on your own criteria, but it should not be overlooked in the modern project management matrix.

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