Each social networking tool has its own demographics. Facebook tends to be populated by younger users while Twitter is fast becoming the preferred tool for the professional crowd in the 45 years old and over category. These are broad statements which of course do not reflect 100% of their user communities but it does illustrate one important point: social networking is being adopted by nearly every demographic. According to Adam Ostrow writing for Mashable, the number of social networking users has doubled since 2007. You can read his post here. The common thread in all of this is our growing thirst for — and ability to process — more information. Simply put, social networking and Web 2.0 has increased our appetite for information about each other and is feeding our desire to share knowledge.
Relating Social Networking to Leadership Development
The good news is collaboration is on the rise. Take a look at the number of groups, discussions and Q&A on LinkedIn. Members are freely sharing what they know and encouraging others in their field. Professionals are writing and managing information-rich blogs. This means that there is no reason for the people we are leading to be limited by the knowledge base immediately surrounding them.
IBM recently launched a new tool called Pass It Along. The software was designed to aid in knowledge transfer between older, more experienced workers, and the newer workforce entering a company. It is based on social networking and Web 2.0 applications to create more powerful learning networks.
In the absence of a formal learning network, there are a number of online tools available to assist our emerging leaders:
- active participation in LinkedIn groups
- RSS feeds to relevant blogs and web sites
- subscriptions to leadership podcasts at iTunes
- ezines distributed via opt-in email lists
One of these delivery vehicles is bound to be attractive to most everyone. For those who really don’t like to read, the podcasts are an excellent way to help them continue in their growth and development.
So the next time you are conducting a one-on-one with an emerging leader in your organization, take a few moments to investigate ways that social networking can work alongside your coaching to develop this person. And remember that learning is a two-way street. You may find that Gen X and Y employees can teach us a thing or two along the way.