Although first and foremost associated with entertainment or socializing with friends and family, social media now pervades nearly all aspects of the modern workplace. From recruitment to training to promotions, social media is an integral part of how people carry out their everyday work, but does social media necessarily help us do our jobs better?
Understanding the “Social” in Social Media
By definition, social media is different from traditional media because social media platforms turn consumers into participants—in other words, social media turns media audiences into media makers. Here, it is important to bear in mind that while traditional forms of media continue to exist, they now exist in conjunction with user-generated forms of media. For example, while newspapers are still published both in print and digital formats, today, every newspaper also offers readers access to a range of interactive online forums. If letters-to-the-editor once provided a few readers with an opportunity to share their opinions with a wider audience (most print newspapers would only publish a few letters each week), today, each published news article is a potential catalyst for thousands of reader responses. Of course, when we think about social media, we typically think about specific platforms, such as Youtube, Twitter or Facebook, and in some cases, work-related platforms, like LinkedIn. Either way, what these platforms share is a focus on turning audiences into participants.
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Four Ways Social Media Platforms are Transforming Work in the 21st Century
I. Using Social Media Platforms for Recruitment
Two decades ago, recruiting job candidates typically took place in person or via a print-based advertisement in a newspaper. Recent surveys report that up to 94% of recruiters now use some form of social media to find job candidates. Indeed, recruitment is one of the most important applications of social media platforms in the workplace, and there are several reasons why this is the case. Most notably, social media platforms enable organizations to pre-screen candidates, widely advertise openings and attract candidates who are a good cultural fit.
II. Onboarding and Training
Just as social media is increasingly being used to recruit employees, it is increasingly being used to onboard new employees and to provide support and training to employees once they are up and running in their new positions. The benefits are twofold. First, in the US alone, organizations spend billions of dollars every year on onboarding and training. Social media, when used properly, can reduce onboarding and training costs without compromising the quality of onboarding or training programs. Second, using social media at the onboarding stage means that one’s initial training is taking place in a context that is familiar and for most employees, ubiquitous, which means they are more likely to return to the training space down the line.
III. Redrawing the Boundaries of the Workplace
While it was once rare for people to work remotely, especially full-time employees, today a growing number of organizations are redrawing the boundaries of the workplace. Today, more and more employees are working remotely. Of course, the remote workplace would be impossible without the use of a myriad of social media tools from document sharing platforms like Dropbox to project management sites like Basecamp.
IV. Transforming Approaches to Leadership
Finally, social media is changing what leadership means in the twenty-first century. Leaders once worked behind the scenes, communicating only via other high-level executives. Today, old style leadership models are giving way to more open, transparent, accessible, reciprocal and authentic models. For this reason, leaders are increasingly relying on social media to directly connect to employees at all levels of their organizations. The result is a more transparent, reciprocal and authentic approach to leadership where communication is necessarily never uni-directional. Indeed, social media platforms help leaders communicate in ways that are increasingly open and collaborative and in ways that invite feedback from employees.