I have talked to many project managers who are curious how social media can benefit their career and their projects. Being a fan of social media in general, I have analyzed various social media tools and have some suggestions on how you can best use them in your daily life.
Linkedin – the place to go if you want to network online with other professionals. You create an account, update your profile to include your professional experience, and then begin connecting with professionals you know.
Linkedin has functionality that lets you join online groups of users with similar interests. For instance, I joined the “Project Manager Networking Group” so that I can share advice with other PMs online. This group has over 62,000 members. Discussions are conducted through the groups and users can post job openings as well.
In addition to job postings within groups, Linkedin allows employers to post job openings (similar to CareerBuilder) that you can search and apply for. One distinguishing feature is that you can see how you are connected to the job posting and can ask for connections to offer recommendations.
Linkedin is the site that most people are familiar with, so if you want to get the most bang for your buck you should create an account here.
Plaxo – Plaxo is similar to LinkedIn. They offer the functionality to connect with people that you share an educational or professional relationship with. They have recently offered a “My Career” section that allows you to search for jobs as well.
Plaxo is a little less professional in nature in that you can also send eCards to connections (something that I wouldn’t do, but I know some are into that) or post pictures. In that regard, Plaxo is attempting to blur the line between Linkedin functionality and the functionality of Facebook.
Facebook – Facebook is more personal in nature. I do not go on to this site to expand my professional network, but I do recommend that you connect with some of your team members as it allows you to begin creating a relationship that focuses on more than just the 9-5 shift. Some may say that blurring the line between work and play is a bad thing, but I feel that if I can connect to my team on a deeper level than the risks are worth it.
Twitter – Twitter has been all over the news lately. It’s coming out party to many was the way it facilitated communication about the Iran Election controversy. Twitter is a tool that lets you communicate (in 140 characters or less) what you are doing or thinking. The message that you post to the site is known as a tweet and is viewable by the public. The positive to twitter is that is allows instant communication between its users. Since the messages are so succinct you do not have to wait long periods of time between updates (unlike some emails we have all read).
The business application for project managers is unclear to many. Similar to Facebook, it lets you foster a more personal connection with your colleagues and clients, but you need to be careful how much of your life you want to share with them. In addition, you can create a project-specific twitter account and protect the tweets so that only approved users can view your updates. This could be used to send out status updates to your team. I have not heard of many users taking this path, but would love to hear from anyone who has successfully implemented this.
In conclusion, social media is not going away any time soon. The Internet allows us to connect with more people every day and we need to figure out a way to make it work for us. I recommend that you investigate the various tools out there for yourself and being connecting with your colleagues and clients.