I'm quickly becoming a fan of using Facebook groups to communicate and collaborate in a variety of situations. Here is a recent example...
One of the first responsibilities in my new role (Director of Operations) began at our regional student conference this past December in Portland: recruit students and recent grads to intern on our Ops team this coming school year. Coming out of the conference, there were 8-10 people (out of nearly 50 that we interviewed) we felt would be strong contributors on an Ops team for the coming year. However, very few of them knew me very well, and even fewer really knew what saying "yes" to an operations internship would look like. The following was a list of issues I needed to address:
- The Ops candidates did not know me, their potential team leader, very well. Additionally, I would not have face-to-face contact with most of them between the conference and when they needed to make a decision about interning.
- They didn't know each other. It would be easy to make the decision "in isolation", that is, to envision the job with unknown people in an unknown place doing an unknown job for an unknown boss.
- Time to connect would be at a premium. Other job responsibilities, developing funding for my personal ministry, selling a house and moving on my end, school, jobs, and ministry on the student's end.
- Many of them would have the same questions. I could just "copy/paste" an email answer, but this would take away the relational aspect and not account for subtle differences in the question or circumstance being addressed..
There may have been others, but those were some that came to mind. Accordingly, a large part of my solution was to invite them to a "closed" Facebook group where everyone being recruited could interact with current members of our regional operations effort. The one thing I quickly realized, however, was that to really foster communication and community, I needed to actively lead the group. Here are some ways I did that:
- Made everyone an officer in the group with a useful and accurate description of their current role. Those I was recruiting were given the office of "Potential GNW Ops intern - 2010/11". Current Ops team members were labeled as accurately as possible.
- Posted liberally on the group wall. I introduced myself, who the different group members were, and asked them all to share a little about themselves. I'd also ops news/information whenever relevant.
- Used the tagging feature. If I wanted to get somebody's attention or ask them to post, I'd tag them in the wall post using the @name feature.
- Would ask people to post questions on the group wall that they had asked me on the phone or via email. I wanted to intentionally drive traffic/attention there and never have to answer a question more than once. I also wanted to let others weigh in and contribute to the conversation.
- I would respond to just about every post or comment. If people felt like they were talking themselves, they wouldn't want to post any more. I had to acknowledge what they wrote and that they were heard. It didn't have to be me providing the answer. In some cases, I might have messaged someone privately and asked them to weigh in if they needed some prodding or had just missed the thread.
There may have been more, but that's a start. I plan on continuing to use this group with our Ops team this coming year to actually get work done. We've started using discussion threads and "events"...and will likely evolve in our practices as our team comes together in person.
I'm also thinking of using groups in a variety of additional contexts on the job that could really cut down on email and phone-calls while simultaneously building community and trust across distance. I'll let you know how that goes. And maybe I'll ask our interns if the group was, in fact, helpful to them in overcoming the issues presented above!
Have you used a Facebook group (or similar) to actually get something done? Any "best practices" you would add to the above list about leading a FB group?
[For a thoughtful related post, see "Answer an email publicly and everyone wins"]