In an earlier piece Geneca's Michael Klynstra looked at how social networking tools like Twitter could help project managers improve team communications. Here he advises on how to select the best collaboration tools for your project teams and how to successfully introduce them.
When choosing which social concepts to try with your team, first consider the types of problems your team needs to solve and how you like to communicate. If you’re looking to adopt a social platform, this information will help you determine your best bets for adoption.
While I know of no tried-and-true road map for what works best for most teams, agreeing on what to use and developing standards and general guidelines should be the first steps. Use what’s comfortable for your team. Get a sense of what they use outside of work to get a sense of HOW they are communicating.
Social Tool Selection
Use these five questions to gather information from your team as you develop your plan:
- How sensitive is content that would be shared? Twitter is an example of a platform that offers capabilities to secure tweets and send direct messages away from the public. However, there remains some risk that someone may inadvertently send a message to their public stream. If this is a concern, look toward a closed ecosystem in which you know the content will remain safer. Yammer and a self-hosted wiki are examples of such private spaces.
- Is your communication unidirectional or bidirectional? If you are looking for a new way to communicate status, Vimeo allows for password-protected videos or setting access to other specific Vimeo accounts. But, if you want a new way to get your entire team talking together, Vimeo’s commenting area isn’t a fully interactive community space. Look for a platform with a forum-style area such as a LinkedIn group or wiki if you want your team to post updates, and to comment and converse in a free-form way.
- Do you have a social platform budget? While most platforms offer free or low-cost versions with basic functionality, tiered pricing can get you more. Gather your list of platforms and tiered pricing structures to get a sense of what it will cost you to get what you need. The pricing alone may dictate where you start.
- What social platforms do team members use today? Sure, there are statistics that tell which demographic is using a given platform, but my experience says “you never know.” Take a poll – not only on what people use, but gauge levels of interest in trying something out. Introducing social tools always introduces the challenge of adoption, so you may need to think about how to get people engaged once you’ve got the pieces in place.
- Keep it Personal or Make it Professional? Work with your team to determine what information will be shared and whether team members should use their personal accounts or create professional accounts. While there’s no right or wrong answer, some professionals choose to use one account while others may have several, each serving a different purpose. Again, the key is to determine which route to take and make the rules of engagement clear.
Taking the Social Plunge
Many of the project managers I meet are excited about the prospect of using social concepts to improve team communication. Because most of your team is probably already comfortable with social media, it shouldn’t take too much effort to get everyone on board. Collaboration should be fun, and the space should be open for ideas and support. The human predisposition to be social works in your favor.
Bottom line: For teams across the organization, from marketing to customer support to IT, social media has already erased the line between personal and professional interactions. Now that the landscape of tools currently available can get you up and going quickly, it’s no longer a matter of when social media will fully integrate itself but how.
Michael Klynstra, director of marketing at custom software development company Geneca, thrives on identifying patterns in chaos and creating simplicity where complexity has taken root. A marketer with a background in science and the arts and experience in software delivery and operations, his specialties include marketing automation, social media, creative direction and brand management.