I had the opportunity to have a virtual conversation with Ian Salmon this week regarding social media in the workplace. Ian is the Suzuki Strings instructor at my school and is the most social media savvy person I know.
As a person who straddles the Baby Boomer and Generation X populations, I find that I’m inclined to value efficiency, balance, privacy, and independence. When it comes to work I just want to get things done without fuss or complications. When it comes to communication, I expect a quick responses and consensus. Ian, on the other hand, is a true Millenial even though he has some attributes that fit the Gen X crowd as well. Ian is completely comfortable with technology, has a strong opinion about a variety of topics, displays great creativity, and does not shy away for challenges or controversy.
I can think of so many examples how we are different in regards to attitudes and uses for social media. When it comes to Facebook, Ian is so much more transparent than I am. He seems comfortable posting comments and links to interviews, videos, and articles that are of interest to him – even when they can be viewed as controversial by some. He does not shy away from posts that challenge his position but remains civil in his responses. As for me, I usually avoid any hint of self-disclosure regarding my religious, political, or social beliefs.
Our attitudes regarding the role of social media are different as well. Ian would like to be able to utilize social media much more at work in order to facilitate communication between himself and his students and their parents. Unfortunately he is unable to do this due to security measures imposed at the district level. Ian values accessibility to his students. I, on the other hand, am not sure that I want that level of connectivity. When I’m away from school, I want to shed the teacher role and be just “me”.
For all of our differences, I have found that Ian has been one of my greatest teachers over the last two years. He encourages me to consider all of the positive ways that social media can enhance my life. He has also taught me that just because he doesn’t acknowledge every email or text that I send him, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t paying attention and responding.
When I asked Ian what he thinks the greatest challenge of using social media to reach multiple generations is, he responded:
“Simply put: learning curve. The internet is fast and I’m just talking about bandwith. Keep it simple, accessible and with a low learning curve. Don’t change what already works unless you have to. Educate the people before your change layouts. Don’t let them wake up to a foreign set of frames in their browser window. I guarantee that on the day that Facebook streamlined their latest interface, “Timeline”, onto all use profiles, Twitter saw an increase in user activity.”
Ian’s perspective on the role of social media is appreciated. As it relates to school communication, there is great room for improvement. In order to reach more students we can use Facebook to reach Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomer grandparents. Relying on traditional communication through our phone messaging system and notes home will reach the families who lack connectivity. We can also utilize email blasts and text messaging for Baby Boomers, community sponsors, and parents. It might be interesting to use twitter to post live updates of special events as well. I’m looking forward to the possibilities!