Social Media is Smokin’

A few of my favourite thingsOf course Social Media is hot at the moment.  It is the buzz term covering everything from Twitter to Facebook , from real-time news to yesterdays memes.  You can’t go passed any of the major news outlets without seeing at  least one Twitter/Facebook does good and one Twitter/Facebook does evil  story, every day, in their online editions.

But what all of these stories miss is the “social” part of Social Media.  Most people think of the volume of traffic, the celebrities with over a million followers, the immediacy of breaking news or viral videos… but none mention the key part – the “social” part.

When I first joined my current work place some 8 years ago there were still smokers allowed on the premises.   Smokers were already relegated to the outside of the building when I joined, but they still could shelter from the rain.  (Note kids:  these people now hover around the back alleyways, at least 10 metres from the building, in slowly dying numbers). These smokers were never hanging around talking about what brand of cigarette they were consuming, they were discussing the day to day running of the corporation, the minutiae of the company and the projects they were working on.  These conversations were held amongst people from the different levels or divisions and from a wide selection of people across the organisation. Over a five minute smoko, frustrations would come out about how project X could not progress due to process Y.  Often something remarkable could happen out of these discussions.  Process Y was not always the bottle neck you thought it was and someone else may have a work around or have the connections to ensure that it wasn’t the problem that you thought it was.  Thus over a 5 minute smoko networking was utilised and sometimes a solution forthcoming.

Of course now we know just how bad smoking is for you, no longer seen as cool.  Certainly for the last 20 years it was never seen as productive.  The weak bonds that formed across the company through the smoko break have diminished greatly.  However the need for this kind of informal communication never did.

my "I'm a small j journalist" t-shirt arrivedNow however, we all have a new tool on the block. “Social Media”, the quick update via twitter is still however like the smoko, frowned upon by those that don’t use it. More often than not just seen as wasting time, not head down bum up as it were.

The weak social bonds that a smoko gave can now be much stronger when using social media as the catalyst.  Unlike the traditional smoko bonds, (irl in one location) can now reach further; across a business or even the globe.  In my own work place I have discussions with everyone from the person working on a similar project to the managing director.

There are those people that will fret when the boss or even the competition starts to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  What they don’t see are the opportunities the connections can bring.  That problem Y you are having is not going to be yours alone, nor your companies alone.  It is likely to be something that someone somewhere has already encountered and solved.  So talking about it gives people the option to help.   You can talk about a lot of problems without divulging confidential information or even bringing your company into disrepute and find the solution. There are tools like Yammer you can use internally to create a social network if you wish to limit discussion to an internal network and helping those not ready to step out into the big wide world.

#spillThe #spill tag showed how media organisations in Australia shared information.  The traditional rules of journalism, if only for a brief moment in time, were shaken as journalists and media commentators shared information retweeting each other, correcting, enhancing and distributing information outside the walls of their own institutions. This was the “social” aspect of Social Media coming into play.  These are people who traditionally in the old days, would have had private conversations over a smoke, out the back of parliament house. Now they could share what they’ve learned with not only those directly around them but with the rest of the world.

The times they are a changing, is not really what is happening.  The community where you talk over problems and information just got a whole lot larger and a whole lot faster.

And remember that person having a twito (a twitter smoko) is not always wasting time (though they may be :-)) they are collaborating solutions to problems across not only their organisation but the whole world.

It may just be time to put down the cigarette and get back to your desk and tweet someone.

One Response to “Social Media is Smokin’”

  1. Excellent!

    I am guilty of loudly and proudly enjoying both the vices contained herein – taking my problem solving to the next generation!!

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment