The Future of Diversity and Inclusion Work (part 1) Social Media

Everyone on the planet is talking about social media…except for diversity and inclusion practitioners.  Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but not that big.  Of all the conferences that I have participated in this fall, D&I conferences are the only ones where social media has been absent from the agenda.  I have even felt some real disregard towards the topic, when it is brought up at D&I events.  I am not sure why this is, but it seems to be evidence of a discipline stuck in the past and resistant to change.

I think that this disconnect is increasingly costly to our work with each passing day.  Social media is that big of a deal.

Not only can we ill afford to be out of the loop on any significant change impacting organizations and communities, these new tools happen to be incredibly relevant and applicable to our work.   I think it is no exaggeration to say that there may not be another body of work that social media tools are more ideally designed for.  It seems to me that if there are going to be radical and transformational steps ahead of us in how we do the work that we do, that they will involve the integration of social technology.

Part of our disconnect on this issue is that social technology is still thought of as being primarily about technology…the domain of coders and designers, hipsters and marketers.  Social media is really not as much about technology as it is about “social.”

This is what it is important to understand about these tools, they represent new ways for us to engage with other human beings, whether they be clients (past, current or potential), or employees (past, current or potential) or other stakeholders.  Used properly this is a set of tools for building new relationships and new kinds of relationships, for architecting new social spaces and creating community.  We are talking here about a set of tools that are uniquely effective towards telling our story, bearing witness to the stories of others, seeking context, building bridges, sharing information, diffusing power and disrupting the conformity and status quo of our hierarchical and siloed organizations…which sounds to me a lot like the work that you and I are called to.

Used correctly, LinkedIn can facilitate more internal intersections…relationships, conversations, information sharing across departments and organizational levels.  Used correctly, LinkedIn can facilitate employees bringing more diversity into their internal and external professional networks, which can influence the ideas and information that the organization has access to which can influence its capacity for innovation.  Used correctly, Yammer can create generative intersections of information and ideas that the entire organization can draw upon.  Used correctly, external blogs and video can be used to tell a diverse collection of employment stories to potential candidates.

These tools also represent new ways for us to learn and grow as practitioners.  New ways for us to find each other, challenge each other, and support each other.  This new toolbox can change our work, how we do our work, and how we get better at doing our work.

It is also important to note that this is not just about Facebook  or Twitter.  There is a whole lot of stuff in this big noisy bucket that we call social media, for example:

In each of these categories are dozens and in some cases hundreds of different applications and platforms.  Facebook and Twitter are big and popular and powerful, but they are just one slice of the pie…and this is part of the reason why the entire subject can quickly become overwhelming.

I am not a social media expert, but I am an advocate and especially an advocate for making informed decisions about social media…to do that, you need to spend time there.

None of us are going to become experts on all of this stuff anytime soon and do not need to, but as a discipline we need to get social media savvy and we need to do it now.

So start somewhere.  I think that understanding and experimenting with social media needs to be one of our top priorities for 2011.

A few simple ways to get started…

  • Make sure that you are spending some time on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook so that you are familiar with them and so that you are familiar with how other individuals and organizations are using them.  Ask questions, in my experience Twitter and LinkedIn are both full of people ready and willing to help.
  • There are also some good groups specific to D&I work on LinkedIn, I facilitate one of them.
  • There are also some good lists of D&I people on Twitter, I manage one of them.
  • Eric Peterson of SHRM also has a good D&I list.
  • Jessica Carter also facilitates a weekly twitter chat about the intersection of social media and diversity & inclusion work.
  • Find conferences, publications, on-line communities where people are talking about putting these tools to work.  Skip one HR or D&I conference in 2011 and attend a social media conference…immerse yourself in it.
  • Also, read Cluetrain Manifesto.  Almost eleven years old it is still ahead of its time in some ways.
  • Read Open Community as well.  It is targeted toward associations, but I think that the principles apply to other types of organizations as well.

Are you already actively using social media tools in your D&I work?  Feel free to share them here or to post questions about the what, why and how of social media in relation to D&I work.

On the topic of the future of this work, I want to remind you to put a couple of dates on your calendar.  Help architect the future:

April 1-2, 2011 Diversity and Inclusion Unconference || Omaha, NE

October 24-26, 2011 SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference || Washington, D.C.

Be good to each other.

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