Social Media Week: How HR can get involved

Jon Ingham concludes his series of articles on HR and social media for

I have already described the potential benefits of HR teams’ use of social media to support and enhance HR processes (HR 2.0) and to develop social collaboration / social capital within their organisations. 

There is also a rapidly increasing number of case studies of organisations which have used social media to gain some of these advantages. These examples come from across all sectors, not just technology based companies, as they were mainly one or two years ago.

Another sign of the rapid change in this area is the Connecting HR tweet-up (Twitter user meet-up) we held recently. We had 100 people with an interest in HR booked to attend this event, most of whom already use Twitter and other forms of social media. 

It simply would not have been possible to find this number of HR users of social media even just one year ago.

But the real opportunities for using social media to gain significant benefits within an organisation are often individual to a particular employer. These benefits are often emergent – that is their precise form cannot be understood until people are using the technologies and the benefits emerge from this usage.

This means that one of the main ways of gaining benefits is through experimentation. This is about trying out new things: new technologies and new approaches, understanding that some of these may not work, some of them may work as expected, and others may find new and different uses to those that had been anticipated. 

It is why people working in this area talk about ‘perpetual beta’ – nothing is ever fixed or finalised, but always in motion towards some new way of working. This is also why one of the best ways to learn about the potential benefits of social media is to use it. I would encourage HR professionals to find ways to get involved with these new technologies.

One opportunity is to get involved yourself, as an individual, and to start blogging or podcasting about HR or a personal interest. If you want to blog about HR, you can do this in a way that is attributable (perhaps stating that your posts represent your own individual views, not your employer’s).

Or you can blog anonymously (like @TheHRD, @HRwithBalls or @MaskedBloggHR). The benefits of doing this should include improving your own learning, knowledge and networking as well as promoting your own personal brand.

You may decide to start blogging internally, perhaps as an HR team, in order to raise your profile and increase the transparency of HR’s activities (and if so, why not make this blog available externally as well?). Or you can blog with a real business purpose in mind, for example, in a recruitment blog, providing information on your company to potential candidates.

Whatever you decide, once you are involved, you will be better placed to engage and advise others in the company to do the same. So an additional benefit of any of these forms of involvement is your broader sponsorship of social media and the social business.

However, one of the things you will need to do is to prioritise use of the technology – there is simply too many different technologies available for most individuals and organisations to handle it all.

To provide an example, I see myself as more of an expert in the creation of social collaboration than I am in the use of social media, where I still have a lot to learn. I use Linkedin, Twitter, Blogger (for blogging) and Blogtalkradio (for podcasting) quite extensively. 

However, I am only just getting to grips with YouTube, Facebook and Delicious (tagging). And I still have to start experimenting with Slideshare and some of the functionality on Amazon. Other people will make different choices about where they want to focus, but I think nearly everyone does need to choose their priorities.

Therefore, the other action that I would suggest you take, as well as experimentation, is to plan ahead – to think about what the social business might look like in your organisation and then to priorities your use of social media around this vision of the future.

Doing this will help ensure you gain the full benefits available from fundamental, social transformation as well as ongoing, incremental change.

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