Social media gets attention for enabling communications among diverse networks and, among learning and development thinkers, for its capacity to support collaboration and learning. But a less-discussed role of social media in the professional context is as a support network for small business owners, freelancers or other solo practitioners.
Last week, the author Susan Orlean appeared on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air to discuss her new book and her writing process. But one particular nugget caught my attention. Orlean is an active Twitter user, and the host asked why she found it a useful investment of her time. Orlean described how Twitter allows her to capture the feeling of being surrounded by people, when she’s working by herself in her house in the country:
“I first got involved with Twitter when I began writing this book and was spending day after day entirely by myself. I was living out in the country. And here was a way to chat with people and in some cases use them as a cheering squad. I would often post my word count for the day. And people would say, ‘Go, you can do it.’ And I began to find this relationship with the world of Twitter that I had been missing since I had been working in an office.”
Twitter enabled Orlean to build a network of supporters and peers that strengthened her focus and expanded her ideas, even as she toiled away in the country. So here’s a new way to think about Twitter: Support system. Productivity booster. Pat on the back.
For Orlean social media means something simple: company. And, as humans are social beings, that’s important. She feels more productive with the sense that there are people involved in her work and connected with her success. That’s why communities matter! In jobs where people are isolated – whether functionally or geographically – social networks provide the kind of camaraderie or group identity that can add purpose and meaning to work.
Social media can support productivity for people in many different situations. Are you a small business owner or freelancer? Is difficult to get input and support on your ideas and projects? Tap into bigger networks than just your office. Find people in your job function on Twitter, in LinkedIn forums or on specialized professional networks. Share content and ideas, ask for input and feedback or just simply build yourself a cheering squad.
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