How to Introduce Facebook and Twitter Users to Social Collaboration

By David F. Carr

Employees who are active on a social network like Facebook or Twitter may come up to speed quickly using social collaboration in a business environment, but they may not understand how it’s different from the social networks they know and love or how to apply social networking to their work.

For these employees, you probably won’t have to spend much time telling them how to post, but that doesn’t mean they understand what to post.

Here’s an example of how one company introduced social collaboration to its colleagues:

  • Provide guidelines. When social collaboration is first introduced to your organization, present employees with a series of “quick guide” documents on what is and isn’t appropriate.

  • Discuss appropriateness. Facebook and Twitter users may accept the collaboration network more easily than others, but they still needed guidance on what they should and shouldn’t be using it for. Let employees know that they should not be posting that they had Corn Flakes for breakfast, but they could post that they had Corn Flakes for breakfast with the CEO and here is what he said.

  • Explain who sees what. Some employees may be afraid to post, partly because they are not clear where their posts show up or who sees them. Posting to the main corporate feed can be scary for people.

    You want to create a culture in which it’s okay to post, and employees will know that they won’t be chastised if, for example, there’s a typo in their posts — as long as the message is good.

  • Help colleagues choose the right audience for messages. Most employees need guidance about what to post where — whether in the company-wide stream or a group for a particular professional interest — and who would see it. Put something together like the following figure — in addition to calming fears about broadcasting too widely, this summary helps employees understand how to tag their posts to get them seen by the right people.

    [Credit: Reprinted with permission from Mercer LLC. Copyright 2013 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.]

    Credit: Reprinted with permission from Mercer LLC. Copyright 2013 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved.

A Facebook user encountering a broad-based social collaboration platform like Jive or IBM Connections for the first time may also be overwhelmed by the number of options for creating content as an ordinary status post, a blog entry, or a wiki document. Should the post be directed to the main activity stream or to a feed associated with a project or a community relevant to the topic? The transition to Yammer may be smoother, given how closely that cloud-based collaboration service mirrors the major features and the layout of Facebook. Yammer adds more sophisticated, business-specific features, but the emphasis still tends to be on simplicity over sophistication. (Now that the product is owned by Microsoft, SharePoint is supposed to provide the sophistication.)

Don’t introduce new software as being “as easy as Facebook.” The Facebook user interface can be quite confusing, particularly to the uninitiated. Facebook fans put up with it anyway because their friends are on the service. Then, just when they’ve learned their way around, Facebook changes everything. Or so it seems, sometimes.

The power of a social network comes at least as much from the people participating in it as from anything coded in software. Having the right people involved can overcome a few shortcomings in the underlying software. It may even motivate people to train themselves on the elements of the system that aren’t immediately obvious. However, a social collaboration system only gains that momentum after you have people actively using it.

By all means, exploit the power of familiarity. Just don’t expect it to eliminate the need for training and support.