by Curt Finch

Can Companies and Employees Really Hang Out in the Social Realm?

Mar 30, 20123 mins
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When it comes to the relationship between companies and their employees on social media, most think in terms of the negative aspects: businesses requesting passwords (which, by the way, Facebook is now sternly cautioning against), conducting pre-employment “background checks,” monitoring employees to make sure they’re not portraying the company in a bad light, etc.  Because of this, many employees simply shut companies out of their social networks as best they can, locking them down behind a wall of privacy settings. This is unfortunate because companies are missing out on a great tool in the form of social collaboration.


Employees represent themselves, their likes, and their interests online, and they build an environment where they feel comfortable having discussions. In the office, it can be difficult to breed an environment of open collaboration for fear of looking foolish or otherwise misrepresenting oneself to a group of peers. Social media is built to encourage community and fosters an environment of sharing. It is therefore possible to “work” creatively through social media, letting employees share, create, and discuss ideas that might be difficult to foster in a corporate meeting room.

Let’s look at one potential example of this going on right now, featuring the youngest and often most unwilling type of employee: the student. Using Pinterest, a social tool built almost entirely around the idea of project collaboration and sharing, several professors are encouraging collaboration both inside and out of the classroom. Students post a “board” for project ideas, and then post images or other content from which they draw inspiration. Other students can then comment, repin, and discuss the choices within the social medium itself, creating a comfortable environment with a significantly reduced fear of backlash.

While this example doesn’t directly involve employees, it is not difficult to see the potential uses. Have a big design project coming up? Employees could post ideas from previous campaigns, companies that inspire them, or other external sources, and the team could then discuss and share. Same goes for nearly any other situation in which it would be valuable to both easily share a wide range of ideas and have other team members discuss them openly.

Further, this helps with one of the most important business concerns: time. I’m sure lots of people have sat through meetings where one person has the floor effectively asking what people like and dislike about so many elements that it takes all day. With social collaboration, this process could occur whenever an employee has a moment and can actually offer engaging thoughts without wishing the meeting would just end already.

Pinterest is a fairly new tool and we’re still discovering the potential business uses. Other social collaboration tools I’ve written about in the past include Dropbox, and Yammer. What’s your favorite?