Those taking part in Euan Semple’s ‘Back to the future’ workshop at thefuturestory event run last week by theblueballroom discovered that social media in the workplace varies from company to company with those in the audience ranging from the self-confessed Luddite to the curious, interested and engaged. One by one, people shared their experiences and challenges of embracing new communications formats and explored what needs to change before companies can engage more effectively in social channels to drive networking, collaboration and innovation.

Writer, consultant and public speaker, Euan discussed with the audience how people’s expectations of interactions with each other at work have changed.

Twelve years ago while working in a senior position at the BBC, Euan was one of the first to introduce what have since become known as social media tools into a large, successful organisation. He subsequently had seven years of experience working with many organisations including BP, The World Bank and NATO to help them try to do the same.

He says that the challenges and opportunities social media presents are on parallel with the introduction of the printing press and believes that we are at a similar step change.

Companies making a considerable investment in social media tools need to make sure that investment is not wasted by showing people how to use them. It should not be taken for granted that engagement with social media will just happen. People need help to get to grips with it and navigate their way around it.

Social media satisfies a basic human desire to be part of something, to be connected to each other.

But whereas the sharing of information is more readily embraced in the UK and US, there are cultures where barriers to its implementation exist and need to be overcome.

Social media in Germany, for instance, is slower to take off in a culture where keeping information to oneself is the norm and knowledge is seen as power.  Similarly, Arab cultures don’t like to be seen to lose face and not being seen to know the answers to something is humiliating.

Companies spend thousands of pounds trying to get an exciting website which is money down the plughole if no-one wants to visit it.

RSS inventor Dave Winer pointed out that people will not criticise a company’s product if the product is a good one. People worry about their product being criticised openly online but there is less likelihood of that happening if the product is good.

In the past brands were built by doing things well. That hasn't changed. Building a brand is allowing your staff to be your advocates. For it to succeed you need to be visible, accountable and trustworthy.

Social media is about finding and building the right networks. And having champions in place to spread the word and get people onside with social media.

Top tips:

  • Make sure you have something to say. Don’t just adopt social media for the sake of doing it
  • Social media should not replace face-to-face. On the contrary it enhances it
  • Be brave and be human
  • Social media isn’t about homogenisation. It’s about groups of people.
  • It’s human nature to be curious. Social media taps into this.

With the launch of thefuturestory platform, we're looking to help you figure out what to do about all the new insights and trends we hear about every day.  Do keep in touch via this site, or via Twitter @theblueballroom, and register your interest for our next event, Wiring the Workplace for Women by emailing us.