5 Business Values of Social Technology for Virtual Teams

The Internet has transformed the way we connect with one another. Social technology has accelerated that change to warp speed.

To grasp the speed of change social brought to how we connect, futurist David Houle explains in his book Entering the Shift Age that it took only one month for the Occupy Wall Street protest to expand to a global movement. Though Occupy lacked coherence, its rapid international growth demonstrates the power and preference we have for social technology; it unites us no matter where we live.

Social’s ability to unite people across geographies is of vital importance to virtual teams. Never before has working on a virtual team felt less isolating. Our ExchangeGain team spans the United States; we each live in different cities. Through the use of social, we created a cohesive team that works to grow our infant site.

I grouped the business values of social to our team into five categories. If you lead a virtual team and you’re not using social technology, this list should be educational at minimum.

Social Improves the Quality of Interactions

We hold two meetings per week at ExchangeGain: an editorial meeting, and a strategic and operational meeting. I also have two weekly one-on-ones: one with Ted Coine and one with Dave Ellis, our Blog Editor.

We use Google Plus Hangouts for all our meetings. Its video features allow us to see each other and learn one another’s body language and other communication nuances otherwise lost on the phone. I attribute the visual benefit to our level of comfort in teasing one another – a cultural dimension to our interactions. Despite the lack of in-person interaction, our meetings are productive, dynamic and not painful; the latter generally a common characteristic of conference calls.

Social Helps Create Personal Connection

Because we know when someone hasn’t shaved, or has colored her hair, or wears a baseball cap of his favorite baseball team, our familiarity and comfort with one another deepens the connections between all of us. The connections we have with each other deepen trust and allow us to move faster when strategizing, planning or brainstorming ideas.

Social Helps Virtual Teams Build Culture

Google Plus Hangouts are key to our team’s connectedness. As part of its features, Google Plus has sound effects. It’s customary for someone to use the ticking clock to remind a long-winded colleague to wrap up his or her idea. It’s an accepted way for any one of us to help keep our meetings swift. It started as a joke but has become part of our culture. It’s another way to connect us as a cohesive team.

Social Improves How We Learn about Community Preferences

Our WordPress blog comes with analytics to help us understand what our community of readers prefers. We also use Sprout Social to deepen our understanding of who our readers are and how they interact with the blog.

Prior to social technology, more timely methods were available to understand what a community (or customers) wants from a brand. While those are still valuable data collection methods, analytics embedded in social tools has made it easier for us to better learn from what our readers like, dislike. This helps us plan and strategize more effectively.

Social Can Improve Timeliness of Communications

Social does improve communication speed for many teams. For us, however, this is an area in which we are still growing. Email abuse is on the rise and we unfortunately are slaves to this beast. We tried Basecamp to help capture and group conversations on work we’re doing. It didn’t stick for us.

We currently use Smartsheet to manage our projects and to capture ideas and conversations important to the task. Smartsheet as a planning tool is key for us. However, it’s not improving the timeliness of communications.

We’re likely to try Yammer next. What I’m learning about our team through this exploration to find the one tool that sticks and compliments our workflows, is we are dedicated to improving how we work together. And this includes tolerating the trial balloons we float in the form of social technologies.  Such tolerance wouldn’t be available if we weren’t a cohesive, virtual team.

So I’m curious. What value has your virtual team found in using social technology to improve its cohesiveness?



Art by: sattvamanasa

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

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  • http://www.StrategicOfficeSupport.com/ Kathrine Farris

    Hi Shawn,

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments here. I run a (US based) virtual assisting company, Strategic Office Support, and have several team members that I communicate with on various projects simultaneously. Email is not ideal for my situation. Conversions get buried and tasks get missed or forgotten. Plus, it’s not effective to continuously forward emails as new people join a project. And It’s important to share regular updates and keep communication open without allowing it to become ‘junk’.

    I use, and really like, TeamWorkPM. Another good option that I have come across is TeamBox. Both of these focus on the tasks as much as the interaction, offering more features than Yammer as well as more customization. Including time tracking and reporting options.

    I’ve also used TeamLab, Podio, Trello, and several other options for project management and team collaboration. Yammer is probably my least favorite of the bunch… (just an FYI)

    Good luck and thanks for the post!

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