Working in communications departments in the non-governmental-organizations sector teaches you a lot of useful stuff. One thing that it taught me is: no matter what your target group is, social media is a must have.
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or even your self-made portal with social networking functions are frequented because people like to stay in contact, exchange information, share pictures or just go on about themselves. No matter what the reason ist, most of the people frequent Facebook on a daily basis or even several times per day. But why then use it for professional purposes?
The spheres of work and free-time get mixed-up. Rarely people feel bad about it. That makes it providing added value for whatever purpose you want to use it. Let us take an example. You need someone to do something urgently in the coming days but he or she is always flooded with emails concerning work and it is difficult to get hold of her via telephone. Try it via Facebook. He or she will most probably not receive as many messages as emails. And there you are: straight through the filter. Of course, that does only work in certain areas such as NGO work. If you would try that approach in a big company, there would most probably be one less friend in your friendlist. Also, if you are doing that, do it carefully. Maybe implement it as part of the communications strategy. Of course sensitive data should not be shared but most of the time it is the simple things which do not get down quickly enough.
Why do we react this way to the infiltration of our private life? Because we do not perceive it as such. In some cultures, and I am currently talking about the Philippine culture which is heavily influenced by the Americans, adding your colleagues on Facebook is totally normal. You chat a bit, comment on each others pictures and sooner or later you will bond beyond the professional relationship. It does not take a lot. This ‘professional relationship with benefits’ can then be used to ask for favors or get through the email spam. Facebook reflects social networking, LinkedIn reflects professional networking but I am talking about the in-between. Using LinkedIn for socializing does not look as it would work very good. On the other hand, using Facebook for professional networking works quite good. Adjust some privacy settings and try it!
At some point, I think it is difficult to distinguish between work and private life. You are still the same person and nobody really acts different to a friend when they are out together and when one is the superior of the other. They can act like it, but there will never be a true separation. In the end we are just one person and this one person has relationships which might be complex but they only have one label either saying friend or colleague or other things. But there is no switch for turning on or off a friendship. So making use of this connection for professional purposes is a good move.
Even if you are skeptical about it (as I was and still am), try it!