If you like a particular newspaper today, chances are that this newspaper will no longer be there tomorrow, or that it will only be available online in the future. Indeed, several great newspapers have given up publishing on paper and have made the transition to “online” publication completely.
And, with this switch to what is called the Web 2.0, is the arrival of the iPod generation—the sleek and fancy smartphones and tablets that allow you to remain connected wherever you are and the hardware that allows the software to deliver your Web 2.0 content. And who these days doesn't have one of those devices in his or her pocket to tweet and connect with friends and colleagues at work or privately?
With the arrival of these new platforms, we have seen social media taking off big time. Built deep into the operating systems are the applications that allow you to interact with the click of a button. Young people have been quick on the ball, and the 2011 Facebook statistics as follow tell it all:
We had 845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011
Approximately 80% of our monthly active users are outside the United States and Canada
We had 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011
We had more than 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011
Facebook is available in more than 70 languages.
So, the trend has been set for NEW media, OTHER media, and for the so-called SOCIAL media. The people you know, respect, work with, and want to be seen with, and the social media are the pieces of software that have allowed this to happen. And, like it or not, the trend has been set, and there is no looking back. The advice is that you'd better adapt and follow.
In this paper, we will try and analyse how the rise of this phenomenon can influence the work of the average project manager, your career, and the goals you set yourself.
Social Life and Work–Balance
Being permanently available for your employer seems to be a difficult thing to accept. Working longer hours, permanent or out-of-hours commitment is frequently requested. So, how do we balance this with our private life? More and more, we see people doing their private business during working hours (online banking, social media, and others) as their free time in the evening is being reduced. This is a fact that seems to be accepted and employers also expect that some mail or invitation will be replied to from home as well. Many Belgian employees seem to accept this fact and go along with it.
After all, isn't it the result that counts? If you are drinking coffee while driving, there's no harm in checking your emails at the same time, is there? So, the amount of time you spend online does not seem to worry many people.
But is this the trend and where are we heading? Does anyone know where we will be in five years from now? Will the boundaries of work and our private lives continue to fade, and where will we set our limits when an employer infringes on our weekend lives? This is a topic that is certainly not yet closed and will be followed up in future studies.
Social Versus Live Presence
Being strong in building a web presence is of course important. Setting up your profile on LinkedIn. following the agreed-on rules and expectations can ‘cleverly’ influence your presence and your ‘brand’ online. Top author, Bernadette Martin, can tell you all about this in her bestselling book, Storytelling About Your Brand, Online and Offline (2010). Bernadette gives you some amazing tips and techniques to make sure your profile stands out from the rest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this book, you can find all you need to know to paint that picture. And many people I have talked to recently all admit that they will only “connect” with people once they have met them “in person.” Wouldn't you do the same or are you one of those people who connects with anyone sending you an invitation? Think about this. Don't you need to see a person, and talk to him or her in real life, before trusting him or her with your business?
And what is the value of having hundreds of connections on LinkedIn? Wouldn't the value of your network decrease because you haven't actually talked to half of these people? The value of your network may also decrease if you don't keep up to date with people. If you don't talk to your connections, they may have moved on or changed jobs or career paths altogether. So, make sure to stay connected, and follow updates, which are regularly posted.
After all, you can't live your life entirely virtually. Even at work, you will need to attend those stakeholder meetings and dreadful reviews in person (although you may wish you were far away). Quality human contact will always remain important.
How to Stand Out From the Crowd
So, when you're being “investigated” by your next employer, you can be sure he or she is checking the social media websites. These days, everybody gets Googled, so you better make sure that the results that are showing up are in line with how you want to brand yourself. Have you checked out your own profile lately? Are there perhaps any compromising or inappropriate photographs that should be removed?
Most people are careful when posting their skills and experience, which, of course, is very important because it is a true reflection of who you really are.
But have you also thought about checking your future employer's website? Maybe you know somebody in the company (check your connections) and an insider's advice is certainly always worthwhile. Or check out the company's social media page, and see what's going on there and who is contributing to the stories. You will quickly see a picture becoming clearer. Is it the picture you had in mind when you saw the job advertisement?
Which Profile on Which Media
So, should you be on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the others and for what purpose? Do you have just one profile or a different profile for each media tool? These are excellent questions and a reasonable argument is that you should never mix your professional profile with your private network. Where you are hanging out with the guys from the football club is not really important for your professional career.
So, in general, what can be observed is that one media tool is used for professional relations, and another one for more social relationships between friends and family. This seems to be the right approach, although it may be difficult to keep them apart, if you are socializing with friends from work.
And, occasionally, these tools may help in finding the job you've always dreamed of by mentioning your job search on your Facebook page. “Looking for next opportunity” can go a long way if you have the right types of connections. More and more, we hear stories about the next job posting, which was found using one of the new social media tools.
Twitter is another recent tool and is participating in the brand “picture” you're painting of yourself online. Messages are short, so make sure they are to the point and in line with the pictures you want others to see, and you don't need the latest fancy phone to tweet—any personal computer will work.
Belonging to professional groups or associations can also contribute to building your image. Post a short, but to the point message from time to time and you will see people starting to react after a while; this is another great way to strengthen your network.
Comparing Some of the Better Known Social Media
Social Media Categories
Because these topics seem to be very hot on everybody's agenda, the PMI Belgium chapter decided to organise a survey around this topic, addressed mainly to its project management community. This survey was open between April and June 2011. The survey was mainly advertised on Belgian platforms and the Belgian PMI LinkedIn group. There were 65 respondents. Some of the collected statistics are shown in the next sections. (Not all questions and answers are shown; for full details contact the author of this report, at “[email protected]”)
Some questions cover demographics, some were about occupation,, and, of course, most of them were about the use of various social media tools.
Question 1: What is your occupation?
As shown, two thirds of the audience that responded are project managers.
Question 2: What is your age?
From this answer, it can be seen that the majority of our respondents are between 36 and 50, with 25% also in the younger category, between 21 and 35.
Question 3: How many years of experience do you have as a project manager?
From this answer it can be seen that the large majority of our respondents are experienced project managers, with between 10 and 20 years of working experience.
Question 4: On which platforms do you have a profile?
It can be seen from the results of this question, that the majority of project managers own a profile on LinkedIn. The professional value of this platform seems to be clearly shown here. In second place, comes Facebook, where one fourth of the project managers have a profile. Together, both account for two thirds of the profiles. Many smaller players make up the remaining respondents.
Question 5: How active are you on the various social media platforms?
This question shows that approximately one third of participants are very active on the various social media platforms and use them several times a day; an additional one fourth (approximately) visits at least one social media platform a day.
Question 6: I use social media to communicate with…
This question is a bit ambiguous and should probably have required some further clarification in the questionnaire. We assume that approximately one fourth of respondents uses social media to communicate with non-project related people; this would represent the white block in the graphic above. Then, an approximate 26% uses social media to communicate with other project managers. The question here really should read: Okay, you are communicating with other project managers, but are you communicating professionally or privately with them? This is not clear here.
Also, the communication with the project sponsor, customer, and team seems on the high side. This would require a more careful wording in our next planned survey. The question should encompass the wording “for professional or project related matters.”
Question 7: My organisation regulates the use of social media tools
It is clear from this answer that in mid-2011 not many Belgian companies were worried about the rules and regulations surrounding the use of social media tools in the workplace.
Question 8: Which types of social media are you active in?
The chart for this question represents the categories of social media, of which social networking is clearly the most popular one. For more information on the different categories, we refer to the exhibit on social media, elsewhere in this report. Results of the answers to this question have been sorted in ascending order of popularity. One respondent may have chosen multiple categories.
Question 9: In the company guidelines for using social media at work, which types of applications/sites are not allowed?
This graphic is self-explanatory and clearly shows the types of sites that are restricted. It is also obvious that Facebook is relatively high on the list, and that a more professional type of site, such as LinkedIn (which comes in at 16%) is not mentioned in the top ten list.
Question 10: What are your main reasons for spending time on social networking sites?
The results from this question clearly show that during the time the survey was taken, in Belgium, most of the time was spent socializing and doing other non-professional activities. Staying up to date with topics and techniques only comes in at 39%, and other professional reasons scored even lower. So, for the moment, these platforms are not so much seen as professional tools, or communication tools. This can clearly be seen from the graphic, since categories such as “socialize” and “staying connected with friends and family” are amongst the top scores. The category “doing business” is showing up at the lower end of the scale.
One respondent can have ticked multiple raisons.
Question 11: Which A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Knowledge Area would be better controlled by using social media tools?
These results clearly show that the most value is attributed to the communication aspects of project management. The value in other areas is less clear, with human resources, and probably the recruiting sector, coming in a close second at 15%.
Question 12: What do you think are the main benefits of using these tools for the project manager?
These results show that the quality of sharing the information, and probably its speed, are more important than the accuracy itself, which may sound contradictory. We will further explore this in a follow-up survey.
Some other sources on the same topic have shown similar findings. For example, on recruiting aspects, a survey from Lumesse.com shows the following:
This clearly shows the importance of some of the channels offered, and in the lead is LinkedIn, which is surpassing other competitors, especially in the recruitment business.
Some of the general conclusions that came to light when analysing the full results of this survey include:
Many project managers are active in social media, but not really for professional reasons.
- Some niche areas are emerging
- Human resources, Recruiting…
Project managers will remain in the driver's seat and on the lookout for means to helping them achieve….
- and other typical PM deliverables
It is clear that the power of social media is increasingly being taken seriously by businesses as a way of:
- Bringing people together
- Forming communities
- Sharing opinions
- Innovating and making decisions
- And fostering new ideas
But, the real question that remains unanswered is whether the project management community should embrace all these new technologies, and if they will be contributing to the quality ‘work’ that the average project manager is expected to deliver.
With these ideas in mind, we will be restructuring and re-launching a second run of this survey and report the results in due time.
This survey, and the analysis of its results, has been an interesting journey. This is a journey that has only just started, because we are convinced that this landscape is going to evolve rapidly and for a long time to come.
Stay tuned for more to come…