A practical guide to using social media in your job

TrainingZone, 14 September 2010

Are you confused with all the talk about social media and want to find out how it can help you? Social media is not something you just read about; it’s something you do, and by demonstrating the value of social media in your own professional practice, you will then be able to help others benefit from it too for working and learning. To help you get started Jane Hart has created a practical guide to using social media in your job, which is available HERE.  Here she provides an overview of what you will find in the guide.

1 – Finding things out on the Web

If you are looking for help or information whilst you are doing your job, what do you do? Where do you go first?

  • If you can’t find the answer on your organisation’s intranet or learning portal, then you, like millions of other people probably go to Google. But are you getting the most out of Google? In How to use Google to search effectively, we look at some of the clever ways you can use Google to get the best search results .
  • But don’t forget there are also a number of other and tools around to search the web, so we also provide some other suggestions on how to search the web .
  • Wikipedia and YouTube usually rank quite highly on a search results list, and there are many other useful and valuable free sources of information and instruction that you should know about.

2 – Keeping up to date with new content

The world is changing fast, and your job may require you to keep up to date with what is happening in your industry. For your own personal development of course, keeping up to date with what is going on in your profession is essential.  In this section we look at some ways to do this.

  • Be kept informed about what’s happening by monitoring the web for new content using Google Alerts.
  • Read industry, analyst or organisation blogs where new postings are being made all the time.
  • Even better, subscribe to blog and website news so that it is sent to you automatically, rather than you having to spend valuable time searching for new content, and aggregate all your news feeds in a reader like Google Reader

3 – Building a trusted network of colleagues

Another very important and key way of keeping up to date is to be in constant contact with colleagues whose opinions and thoughts you trust and value.

  • Although Facebook is often frowned upon in business circles, it has over 400 million users, so there are plenty of opportunities to build a network of colleagues from all over the world if you so desire.
  • LinkedIn is a large network aimed at professional people, where its focus is to help members establish professional connections with others.
  • Twitter is a public micro-updating service which allows individuals to keep in touch with one another using tweets of up to 140 characters, whereas Yammer is a private micro-sharing service for both in-company and community use.

4 – Communicating with your colleagues

Communication is a key aspect of working effectively and productively in your team, department or organisation.

  • Email has become the standard way of communicating online, whether it be with  friends, family, colleagues or business. Web-mail has now become very popular, particularly Gmail, because it is accessible from any computer – at home or work. There are also a number of spin-off systems that extend the functionality of Gmail, even further, including  Google Buzz , which extends email into a conversation
  • Instant messaging (IM) has also become a very important way for people to communicate with one another immediately. Skype is an important tool supporting both text chat and voice calls. If instant messaging is blocked in your organisation, as it sometimes is, other alternatives are online talk and video groups, like Voxopop and Zorap.
  • Although many web meeting systems are enterprise tools, there are a range of web meeting tools that offer a range of functionality for small meetings that anyone can set up, and for free. For instance Dimdim is free for up to 20 users

5 – Sharing resources, ideas and experiences with colleagues

A key feature of the use of social media is that it supports sharing – of resources, ideas and experiences.

  • One of the simplest things to share is your calendar, this will let you easily schedule meetings and events with others. One useful tool for doing this is to use Google Calendar
  • If  you want to share files across computers or with others, there are a number of tools to support this. Dropbox is a very popular tool.
  • If you want to share weblinks with others, then social bookmarking tools are an easy way to do this. Two popular social bookmarking tools are Delicious and Diigo
  • If you want to share resources like photos, videos, documents, presentations, etc) with others, there are a number of major hosting sites that allow you to upload your own resources and then share them privately or publically with others, e.g. Flickr for images, YouTube for videos and screencasts, Slideshare and Prezi for presentations.
  • You might also want to consider using blogging or podcasting tools to sharing your ideas and experiences . With blogging tools you can write regular blog postings that document your thoughts that others can comment on. A very easy tool to get started with blogging is Posterous. If you prefer to create podcasts, then this can easily be achieved using a tool like Audacity.

6 – Collaborating with your colleagues

A further aspect of the use of social media is that it supports group and team collaboration.

  • Collaborative working normally refers to a group of people working together to create a document, presentation, spreadsheet etc. Online office suites let people work together on a file and have an equal ability to add, edit, or delete items in it. Working collaboratively in this context means only one version of the document is maintained – rather than multiple copies showing different edits. Google Docs is the most online office/collaboration suite.
  • There are also a range of live text collaboration tools that support real-time collaborative writing and are useful for ad hoc collaboration, e.g. TypeWithMe.
  • · Wikis – or editable web pages – provide another way of working collaboratively on a common resource, e.g. building a knowledge base or resource area. Once again there are a range of wiki tools available to do this, but PBWorks is a useful one for business.
  • · When working within a team or group you might want to have a shared group workspace where you have access to a number of social media tools to work together as a group. Grou.ps is a free tool that easily lets you set up a secure, private group space with social networking functionality, forums, blogs, wikis etc as well as RSS feed.

7 – Improving your personal productivity

There are many other tools that will help to improve your personal productivity as well as aggregate
the resources and tools  you already have.

  • Having a good online experience is essential in order to manage your own personal productivity, so it goes without saying you need a good web browser, as it is your “window on the web world”. Firefox is a very popular, free, open source browser. One of the reasons for its popularity is the thousands of add-ons available for it which increases its functionality.
  • Another useful tool is a personal online dashboard. This lets you keep track of all your online activities in one place, and is also know as a “start page”. One of the most popular dashboards is iGoogle, which lets you create a customised version of the Google home page as your personal start page, where you can aggregate content from different social media tools.
  • There are many other tools that can help to improve your personal productivity, e.g. tools for keeping your computer backed-up, for information and time management, as well as note taking.  Other tools also provide collaboration features so can also support team productivity.