Is Social Media a Waste of Time In Project Management?
Professional success has always been linked to who you know. Particularly in the professional sphere, people network with like-minded people in order to exchange information with each other. For centuries, people have therefore joined together in guilds, fraternities, associations, etc.
Our modern society is built on countless network structures; we are more connected today than any generation before us. Networks of the 20th and 21st centuries extend across all areas of society and are often not clearly recognizable. The economy is driving this networking even further: globalized flows of goods, international services, working in the cloud, social media. Everything is organized decentrally in networks.
Social Media - The Modern Way of Networking
Social media in particular has become an increasingly important tool for companies in recent years. This refers to the digital media and methods that enable users to connect on the Internet, i.e., to exchange information with one another and to create and share media content individually or in a defined community or openly in society. If we cannot meet in person - as it is currently the case - we have the digital media to stay in touch.
Whether Internal Or External - Social Media Networks
When we think of social media, we usually envision large external platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. However, there are also many internal social platforms within companies or created for specific projects. It is critical to think of social media not just as large-scale networking and broadcasting, but as any technology that enables dynamic interaction among a group of people. The emphasis here is on "social" or as it is often called the "socializing." Social media is just another way to interact with each other - the only difference is that the interaction happens online. At ProjectWizards, for example, we use Slack to connect our decentralized team.
Social media is also used in different ways in project management. Regardless of its use, however, it is crucial to develop a clear understanding of its purpose in a particular project scenario in order to make the most of it. After all, digital networking via social media should not become a time-consuming activity.
What Is Its Purpose?
Different social platforms serve different purposes. Four main purposes are particularly relevant for project management:
This refers to all platforms with a discussion forum or a question and answer format. In terms of project management, they have several benefits:
- Sharing experiences. This often happens on large external platforms, such as LinkedIn groups, among the broader project management community.
- Exchange of best practices. Similar to the exchange of lessons learned, this often takes place in the broader project management context.
- Use in stakeholder management. In this case, the type of platform tends to depend on the size of the project. For example, a government megaproject might use a large external platform to keep everyone who needs to be informed up to date on the project's progress. A market-sensitive merger and acquisition project, on the other hand, might use an internal, closed platform where only key, approved stakeholders are invited to view updates so that information remains protected.
In most cases, project managers use external platforms to connect with each other and the broader project community. However, a number of project managers have also started to use internal social platforms to source skills and expertise for their projects from within the organization.
3. Scheduling of Appointments and Tasks:
This refers to the use of collaborative calendar platforms (such as Doodle) to organize meetings, or organizational platforms such as Merlin Project, to organize and manage work flows.
4: Collaboration Tools:
Most commonly used in the project context are internal wikis, but these are any software that facilitates collaborative authoring and version control of documents, such as Merlin Project. These are used either by project offices to maintain control over project documentation, or by project teams to collaboratively author important project documents.
Do you already know the comment function in Merlin Project? You can use it to discuss the progress of the project with other members of the project team or to agree on specific points with each other. And best of all, the discussion is saved in the project plan and does not need to be additionally documented.
Problems With Social Media in Project Management
Getting colleagues to use social media is challenging because it involves changing established ways of working. For small internal social tools, the challenge is to encourage project staff to use these tools instead of email to achieve their goals. For larger groups (which typically use "discursive" platforms), the problem is building a sufficient critical mass of contributors to make the platform worth using. It is estimated that 90% of social platform users only consume, 9% contribute occasionally, and 1% contribute frequently. This statistic illustrates how many platform users are required to create a vibrant community with a large number of contributors.
Most project staff and teams are busy. They therefore feel
unable to devote the time necessary to develop a sufficient level of social media competence to make the effort worthwhile.
Recurring data leaks in recent years have shown that even private groups on public platforms are not secure enough to communicate sensitive information. This is often the key factor in the decision to use internal social platforms or not to use social media at all for a project. This was the reason for us to say goodbye to Facebook some time ago.
Solve Problems With Social Media in Projects
By and large, a number of problems with social media in projects can be solved by implementing some simple best practices. Apart from the privacy issue mentioned above, which generally requires binary decisions about which platforms can or cannot be used.
Demonstrate the value of the platform by showing that it is used frequently, that new and interesting content is posted regularly, and that post-submission questions are answered promptly in forums. If they find a platform valuable, project staff are more likely to invest the time required to learn how to use it.
Appoint advocates for the platform:
Increase social media usage by appointing advocates to drive platform usage; they write and post content, respond to discussion threads, and lead by example by showing others how to use the platform.
Use contests or rewards to promote and encourage use of the platform.
Include social media in project planning:
Ultimately, as a project manager using social media on a project, it's important to be supported by an organizational strategy and build the use of these tools into communication plans. A strategy that helps define the appropriate use of these tools and a communications plan that clarifies how a project will deploy/use these tools will provide the framework for their success. For example, for a given project, one might determine that a blog will be written to explain the upcoming business change, a wiki will be used for sharing among the technical team, or a social media group will be used for progress reporting to stakeholders.
It's clear that social media has a place in project management and is ultimately just another set of channels to do things that project managers have been doing for years.
In any case, however, it's important to be clear about what type of social platform will be used and then develop a strategy up front that takes into account all of the potential pitfalls of that option. Ideally, these pitfalls can be easily mitigated through a robust project communications plan and the use of advocates to drive platform use and encourage engagement.
In this way, social media can become a powerful tool to achieve a variety of project goals.