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Use Social Collaboration as a Narration of Your Activities

One of the best ways of raising your profile and getting more out of a social collaboration network is by routinely narrating your work or at least the important parts of it that your co-workers need to know. Give a brief description of what you’re working on in your status posts. Share your problems and your questions as they arise, and you have a better chance of getting solutions and answers from your network.

The ideal approach is to give a glimpse of your work in progress, rather than making an announcement only when you accomplish something. This does go against entrenched work instincts, but narrating your work in process opens up opportunities for collaboration. The following figure shows how that works for a traveling executive who lets others know she is on her way to Boston and as a result lines up additional productive meetings for her visit.

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In addition to letting colleagues know what you’re up to, working out loud includes the following practices:

  • Asking questions: When workers have a question, a common (and entrenched) time-consuming strategy is to start small, asking co-workers or people you know. Too often, those people don’t have answers. With a robust social collaboration system in place, though, you can save time by posting your question as a status update in the company activity stream or by posting the question in a relevant group.

  • Giving feedback: Similarly, when you have the insight or “the answer,” you ought to share it proudly (often, not the case). If you see a question in the social collaboration network and know the answer, answer it. Be as helpful to everyone else and as constructive in your criticism as you possibly can be. Spend some time Liking and commenting on posts, participating in discussions, answering questions, and so on.

    If all you do is push your own content and wait for it to be praised or post your questions and expect answers, you’re not acting like a member of the community — and you won’t be treated like one.

  • Pacing your involvement: Naturally, you will need to budget your time so you aren’t spending so much time on social collaboration that you neglect other duties. If you can carve out a few minutes every day, you will establish yourself as a regular presence in the community. You can always spend more time when you find a productive reason to do so.

  • Sharing generously: A big part of the work out loud concept is integrating social collaboration into daily work, creating more documents as shared documents rather than isolated desktop documents and more communications as social posts rather than e-mail. If you can make participation routine, then participation in the collaboration network ought to feel less like extra work. Do it more consistently, and you ought to start seeing your work stretch farther.

    As you build your network and your reputation, you gain the ability to help others spread their message or get their questions answered. Use that power generously. If you don’t know the answer to a question, but you know someone who would, make sure he sees it.

    The internal social network can also be a good place to share links to content from the external world. If you read a good article on management or marketing strategy or developments in your industry, post the link with a few comments about what it means for your organization. Not every thought you share on the collaboration network has to be original. Your colleagues will appreciate you if you bring them relevant news and analysis that they may have missed otherwise.

  • Recognizing others: Internal social networks are routinely used to announce promotions or congratulate a sales team on a strong quarter, but social recognition doesn’t have to stop there. Anyone can thank anyone else for doing a good job. Thank your peers, your subordinates, and your superiors (without being a toady) whenever they do a little something extra to solve a problem or help you complete a project. When you get credit, spread the credit around.

    Some companies have instituted peer recognition systems featuring badges employees can award to each other. That’s great, but a simple message works, too. Don’t be a phony about it, but when you feel grateful, let it show.

    Everybody likes a pat on the back, and the cycle of mutual affirmation makes the online workplace a friendlier place.

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