“Facebook Friday” was a glorious, but short-lived, experiment by one silicon valley software vendor. Every Friday the whole company would get on Facebook at 10:00 am local time (wherever in the world they were) and “hang out” with their 800 coworkers. They would comment on the new baby pictures of the colleague in San Francisco, congratulate the team mate in London who had just moved house, give feedback to the marketer in Stockholm on the latest Twitter campaign and wish the sales team in Melbourne success on the big deal they were working.
For this global company Facebook became the water cooler. It failed to become a permanent part of the culture because it provided no direct business benefit. But the social media network it spawned remains active. It has attracted customers, partners, suppliers and alumni to join and has created a social media community that gives this vendor a very human face.
For most people in the IT space membership of LinkedIn is a necessity. And membership of the groups within LinkedIn makes it very easy to hear the pulse of the industry. Generously members contribute their ideas and their peers get to comment too. This creates a community of like-minded professionals who are prepared to share their experiences altruistically without any expectation of compensation. Of course most people are careful to keep their contributions general so as not give away company secrets but the kinds of advice they offer is quite frequently so detailed as to be clearly the result of a recent intense experience.
This changes how we work significantly. Out there in the cloud are mentors and counselors, subject matter experts and industry gurus, who freely give up their time and experience to further their community’s knowledge and effectiveness. From them we learn about new industry trends and how to apply them so that our own internal development teams can be on the leading edge of the “next big thing”.
Social media networks are the brown bag lunches and town hall meetings of a decade ago, they are the late night debate amongst graduate students with the university professor.