As a team of remote workers, workplace social media isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity.
We had email, we had Basecamp, we had Skype, but those tools alone aren’t enough to create a strong team dynamic when you only see each other in person once a month. We wanted social media for the workplace.
But it’s not just us who can benefit from tools like this. Even office-based workers need a way to communicate and collaborate with their team members on other floors or in other offices. So here's what we've tried on our quest for the perfect workplace social media app.
As part of our Office 365 subscription, Yammer was the obvious first choice. And, for a while, it worked.
It allowed us to create groups for different discussions, share interesting articles and chat one-to-one through Yammer’s instant messenger. Most of the time, our company feed looked like this:
Still, despite our initial enthusiasm, Yammer always left something to be desired. It lacked emojis, limited interactions to ‘likes’ and replies and altogether it just felt a bit too corporate.
We wanted a social space that would bring a bit of fun to our workplace conversations, and Yammer didn’t fit the bill.
Slack. Even the name expressed a big part of what we were missing back in the Yammer days: non-work related fun.
At first we were unsure. Conversations started but there was no way to tell who was talking to whom. What did this accomplish that any simple messenger app didn’t? But then someone found the emoji button and Giphy:
And then the various bots and integrations:
These little touches make a huge difference to how we interact. We no longer type ‘hahaha’ or ‘LOL’ when someone cracks a joke; we can show that through emojis and gifs.
And we’ve got different groups, from the ‘Rant’ channel where we vent our frustrations to the ‘Beats’ channel where we share music.
Of course, it isn't perfect. You can't comment on a post unless it has an image attached so referring to any post above the latest updates is fiddly and confusing. Slack does let you pin messages to the top of a group to prevent them from getting lost, which is good when people share useful links, but it doesn’t allow you to respond to those pinned messages.
Despite these flaws, we still love Slack because it's engaging and easy to pick up. As a result, it has become a huge part of our team dynamic, and we’re unlikely to replace it any time soon.
Never content to rest on our laurels, we managed to wrangle ourselves a trial spot in what was then called ‘Facebook at work’.
The big benefit of Workplace is its familiarity. Anyone who’s used Facebook instantly understands Workplace; you post statuses, share, like and comment on other people’s statuses and chat via the messenger.
It doesn’t quite have the charm of Slack - you can’t respond to a post with a custom emoji - and the layout feels more organised and formal. But, you can still reply to people with stickers and access Giphy’s huge library of gifs when having conversations via the messenger.
Plus, Workplace is far better at organising comment trails. Because we can reply to individual posts and comments we can keep up with a conversation even if we joined it late.
With the release and the re-brand comes the promise that this social media solution will continue to grow. For now, we’re using it alongside Slack.
4. Microsoft Teams
Launched recently, Teams is the newest competitor for the workplace social media crown.
The basic layout is very similar to Slack. You can create channels, chat with team members in a continuous message stream and can private chat with any individual or group of individuals.
But, there are some differences. For one, you can comment on any previous post by hitting the reply button. Also, while Teams doesn’t have the giphy integration that dominates so many of our team’s Slack online chats, it does allow you to share ‘stickers’ and even create your own memes.
Plus, Teams integrates with other Office 365 apps, displaying your Outlook calendar on an easy-to-access tab and allowing you to quickly share files from OneDrive. That also means it’s free with an Office 365 subscription, but only available via that subscription. There’s no way to purchase Teams on its own at the moment.
Every good quest needs an ending, but we haven’t reached ours yet. As new apps come out, we’ll continue trialling them to see what ticks the right boxes. Why? Because we’ve seen how social media can bring a disparate team of people together - we wouldn’t be the same Turbine team without it.
Whatever workplace social media app you choose, don’t forget why you started. It’s easy for businesses big and small to fall into entirely formal communication online, but that won’t help bring your team together. And if you're using any of the above - or one we haven't mentioned - we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.