Delving into Facebook and Flickr pages, and reading the Twitter “tweets” or using AIM to send an “instant message” are all avenues that make up the online gold mine of interaction for business owners. Whether you’re privy to the daily occurrences of someone’s life via Twitter: “my baby was up all night and I’m exhausted,” or “just landed a book deal,” knowing the ins and outs of the lives of your employees enables you to relate to them on a more human level. The irony is, you may arguably gain more insight into what makes your employees tick while looking at your computer screen than you’d be able to ascertain in a face to face encounter with them. Flickr provides access to all of their vacation photos, Facebook shows off their family, complete with pictures of their new baby during their maternity leave, and Twitter gives you a play by play of all the mundane and grandiose details of their existence.
Just as the switchboard was the nerve center of the high-rise office buildings of yesteryear, today’s online social networking is the 24/7 buzzing backdrop behind a successful virtual office such as Inhabitat. I am able to remain in constant contact with our team working remotely, whether they’re on the subway in Manhattan or in a villa in Tuscany. I can send an instant message to a night owl editor to make a change to the morning’s post line-up, I can get a sense of why a deadline may not have been met by viewing someone’s Twitter account, “in bed with the stomach flu.” Having this knowledge makes you a more well-rounded, well-equipped employer with the ability to relate to your employees on an insightful level both professionally and personally.
Although sometimes the insight provided by Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and the like can feel a ‘too-much-information’ and too much of an invasion of privacy -- often it just takes a change of mindset to adjust to this new virtual, ‘always on display’ mode of interacting with people. Different people embrace social-networking with different levels of enthusiasm, but I think ultimately we will find that these new methods of communication bring us together across distances. The same technology that was once thought to be isolating, has turned the corner and is now uniting people in unprecedented ways. Anyone who wants to succeed in business communications in this day and age, should fire up their computers and get ready to tweet.