In part 3 of the series about Frequently Asked Questions on creating a sustainable Company Culture, we discuss the benefits and downsides of social media.
I’ll also share my secret to finding balance as a business owner.
Watch the recorded video here, or reading bonus-filled content below.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
5. What do you see changing in company cultures because of social media?
Social media is a mighty strong communication method, but in my opinion relying on it too much can result in some serious problems. Even during my Facebook Live event, my internet connection caused some pauses in transmission a few times.
Some aspects of social media can make a company culture stronger, and there are other things it can do to harm relationships with your staff and customers.
Benefits of Social Media on a Company’s Culture
- Connect with people globally
It’s amazing how many people I’ve heard from who live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands; people who have contacted me because of the topics I talk about and some of our shared experiences. That’s a powerful thing that was not possible before social media.
- Show empathy and emotional bonds
When you watch a video of someone on a platform like YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo, you can tell their level of enthusiasm and feel their intensity about the topic they’re discussing. You can feel the frustration, empathy, excitement, or shame during a video where the presenter connects to you as a viewer.
This is an incredibly powerful aspect of social media. Your company can benefit from the closeness people feel to you from understanding and responding to their emotional needs. Showing empathy of their experiences and struggles is very difficult to do apart from an intimate connection using video, audio, pictures, and other multi-media delivery methods.
- Viral sharing
Who knows—your video or post could be the next viral sensation! Hopefully it will be for something your company stands for, and not a joke or an error that is taken out of context. There’s always that possibility; so it’s important to double-check your spelling and grammar, and also make sure that your content is not offensive to a majority of your Ideal Customers.
- Tell stories
This is really easy to do using social media, yet a lot of business owners don’t do it very well because they’re not sure how to tell stories using these methods. There are a lot of great resources about how to connect with people based on your experiences, or those of your customers. Consider telling stories about how your customers have benefited from your services and products (for ideas, check out my Case Studies). Our brains are wired to listen to stories.
- Make a difference
The perspective and priorities of Millennials—individuals born between 1981 and 1996 (according to The Pew Research Center)—has a big impact on our changing perception of the world.
One of the most important values for Millennials is making a significant impact on the world. It’s helpful to consider using this as one of your cultural attitudes toward your staff, customers, and other stakeholders—especially if these individuals are in the Millennial generation.
I am part of a micro-generation of people born between 1977 and 1983; we’re called “Xennials” (pronounced ZEN-ee-uhlz”). We’ve been labeled the “Oregon Trail Generation,” the “Star Wars Generation,” and the “Original MTV Generation.” We grew up on the Goonies movie, Mario Brothers video games, and grunge music.
As someone who bridges Gen-X cynicism and Millennial optimism and tech savviness, I think that the Gen-X and Boomer mentality both lack a concern for making a difference. Maybe we’re not used to “putting ourselves out there” and presenting vulnerability. Maybe it’s from a sense of self-preservation. The cultural barrier between generations can be difficult to break through, but it can make a big difference in connecting with your customers.
You can use social media to promote and influence others to buy your services or products. This is especially compelling when you can authentically explain how people will benefit from what you do.
These are just a few ways you can use social media to connect with people by expressing your company culture.
How Social Media Can Harm a Company’s Culture
There are some downsides.
- Portraying perfection
Since we can create a “false Facebook life” by only sharing the best images and stories, our social media presence may not be as realistic. People who know us personally will realize the dichotomy between what we portray and what is real. Lack of authenticity is an easy thing to slip into.
- Instant access
People expect an immediate response, delivery, and results. This can be a difficult habit to break.
- Less face-to-face
Social media can be very impersonal. If you’re trying to communicate by video or pictures, it can feel like you’re speaking to a wall. In my video, I demonstrated how shooting a video means you have to stare into a small lens and imagine those who are watching on the other side of the screen.
By imagining that you’re speaking right to that person, it helps you to create a more personal connection. But this can be really hard to do. Before shooting live videos, I practices for hundreds of hours to get used to the method of doing it. If you’re used to speaking to a live audience, then shooting videos for social media could require a bit of a learning curve.
- No time to reflect
Social media makes it difficult to reflect on what happened, and to do a good Post-Mortem Evaluation. (Read more about how to do a Post-Mortem here). I think this is because the focus of social media is to constantly push content and to provide new information all the time.
Sometimes, we get drawn to movement and activity instead of reflecting on what has happened and what it can teach us. I think that’s a big mistake. If you develop a company culture where you allow time to investigate failures with curiosity and with gratitude for the events (even if it wasn’t what you had hoped for), this can change both the perception that others have of your company, and the way you respond to future problems.
Read more: Overview of the 5 Types of Strategic Risk
- Reactive vs. reflective
The effect of instantaneous stimulation from social media can be damaging to your brand and to the culture you’re trying to create. Allowing time to reflect and “smell the roses,” on the other hand, provides a focus on the here-and-now instead of reacting to problems without considering the consequences.
By reflecting on possible “failures” or “misses” in your company, you can identify how customers perceive you, what’s happening to affect the behavior that resulted in the outcome, and which decisions can prevent future errors and result in a more effective culture.
- Drive to compete and beat competitors
This “crush the competition” mindset is very common on social media. I have seen countless trendy, successful, and popular “gurus” who encourage you to destroy the competition and break through barriers. That’s all very Yang: forceful, aggressive thinking. And if this works for your company, that’s awesome.
But there is a lot of power in receiving, reflecting, and listening. Maybe because I live on the West Coast now, I have done a lot of internal work to calm down that inner tendency to push and force and act. I have learned to be respectful of the pace of others and take the time to consider what is happening, rather than to quickly take action.
Read more about the difference between forceful and receptive thinking in Yin and Yang Approaches to Management.
There’s a lot to be said for “taking the time to smell the flowers.” I do this often; my backyard has lavender, oregano, snapdragons, phlox, dense blazing star (known as a “Butterfly Flower”), and a massive amount of pumpkins.
Being in nature is calming. It can help you see a perspective on how your business runs, just by reflecting on the pace of the natural world.
I will continue this topic in part 4.
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 1: Surface Culture
Understanding the Culture of a Company, Part 2: Deeper Culture
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.
Find more at laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @lacontestrategy.