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February 9, 2011

Call Me Anti-Social (Media) and Proud!

I’ve received a number of excellent questions recently about my thoughts on social media and its impact on internal communications and business.  Some people have misunderstood why I call myself the “anti-social media guy” on the inside.  Let me clarify, and I’d appreciate your feedback.

First off, I value technology.  You might say I even love it except when it stops working.  I blog, tweet, connect through LinkedIn, and in every other way tap today’s technology to live, work, play, and have great conversations in between.  If only technology could put a pacifier in my crying daughter’s mouth at 3 a.m., I’d be golden!

Second, I’ve seen brilliant uses of social media to create buzz, market products, draw attention to world events, and build business with consumers and prospects. 

However, when it comes to employee communication, the results are less impressive. I’ve seen social media create a groundswell of effort focused on what I call “shiny object syndrome,” when people are drawn to something new or faddish at the expense of tried-and-true strategies.  Seminars and webinars touting the great possibilities of Mt. Saint Social Media are drawing huge crowds looking for the Golden Chalice.  My concern is that the way some companies use social media does more harm than good in terms of engaging employees

The problem is...instead of getting clear about what big-picture business goals needs to be achieved and how social media can fit well into an internal communication system, the discussions are more about what to do with social media.  It’s like the line in Alice in Wonderland – “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can get you there.”

I am all for using the right media to accomplish business goals.  And I have seen excellent uses of social media by companies that naturally have a technology competence and have tapped social media as part of a larger internal communication system.

What makes me anti-social (media) is seeing organizations focus energy on social media at the expense of what is really needed to connect with their employees and drive business results.  Often it is not the latest bells and whistles that improve interpersonal and organizational communication, but better face-to-face communication (or a variation that’s aided by technology).

Employees need clear, honest and direct communication that helps them understand how their work connects with the business goals.  They need to hear directly from supervisors and leaders and to be recognized for their contributions.  And they need to be listened to.

There are effective ways to use all types of media in employee communication, as long as they are part of a larger strategy that supports business objectives by engaging employees.  But when it is focused on the latest trend rather than the right approach, I will continue to be anti-social (media).

Is there something you’re doing now for the sake of doing it, instead of to drive a business outcome?

- David Grossman

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