What Can Social Media Tell Us about Virtual Teams?

What Can Social Media Tell Us About Virtual Teams?

If you manage a virtual team or partly virtual team, then I am sure you are running into the same problems that everyone else is facing as well. Making sure you are understanding the contribution that individuals are making is important. Keeping on top of workloads and managing outcomes is key to being able to see if people are productive or not.

But one of the key questions I am continually asked in team performance workshops, leadership workshops and productivity keynotes is: how do we take this a step further?

Savvy leaders don’t want to just keep tabs on their virtual team members. They also want to help create a great working environment where those people feel connected to the team – and where the rest of the team feels connected to those people. But why is this often so hard?

The lack of being physically present isn’t insurmountable. Every day, people create virtual relationships on social media. They haven’t personally met the user, but they connect nonetheless, and sometimes they connect to the point where they feel like they know each other. For real.

So here are three things that social media can tell us about building virtual relationships. And, hopefully, more productive teams:

     1. See Each Other

The problem of not having physical contact is a real one. We find it difficult to connect with people we don’t see. So get people visual as much as possible. Social media posts that have photos of the actual user get 35% more likes on average. We connect with people when we know what they look like.

Use the video conferencing facility where possible, not just the phone. Use real pictures instead of avatars on other platforms. Post pictures of your remote workers in the office kitchen. The more people see them, the more they will connect.

     2. We like people with the same interests as us

Why are hashtags so prolific in social media? Because we want to know people who like the same things as we do.

In the workplace, we often make the mistake of dwindling this down to ‘work’ things. Leaders mistakenly believe that if they connect everyone to the team goals, they’ll work together and take an interest in each other. This works brilliantly in a physical workplace because, at the same time as people are invested in the goals, they are getting invested in each other. But for virtual teams, it’s never that easy.

Help people connect to common interests outside of work. Make sure that your virtual workers are included in the ‘what-did-you-do-on-the-weekend’ conversations so that people get to know them. You might personally have to connect one of your physical team with one of your virtual team by suggesting that they have the same interests and would chat. Allow them to carve out that time.

     3. Regular interactions

One of the rules of social media is that if you want followers, you need to post consistently – like, every day. Or maybe even multiple times a day. If you post once a month, people don’t get to know you.

The same is true for virtual teams.

If you only connect with them for the weekly meeting, you’ll never build the relationships that you want. They need to be consistently visible to the team, so involve them in everything possible.

Building virtual teams is definitely more challenging than building regular teams. But with a little bit of preparation and a whole lot of consistency, it can be done. And very, very effectively.


** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.

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