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Connected, Yet No Contact: Dealing with ‘Contact Inertia” when using Social Media for Work

It is futile to sleep again to complete the remaining dream …. because the real dreams won’t let you sleep anyway.

Digi-socialization fad has redefined the notion of connectivity.  From one that used to be a matter of exclusivity, connectivity has become a commodity in today’s world characterized by an extensive use of social media for professional and personal life chores.

Connectivity occurs in many forms. One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many are well-known types of connectivity. The use of social media is enabling yet another, a new type of connectivity i.e. unknowns-to-unknowns connectivity, where people are connected to other people that they don’t even know through networks of their known contacts. All this means is that connectivity is multiplying at an imaginable speed.

The ease with which the connectivity can be established using social media and its multiplicity is resulting in a tendency where people end up having largescale connectivity and a correspondingly long list of contacts. Logically, then it becomes challenging, if not impossible, to remain in touch with each and every contact leading to the development of a tendency termed here as the contact inertia.

We define contact inertia as a tendency of not contacting (or not being able to contact) people in one’s network(s) of contacts due to possibly a large number of contacts resulting in an in-active two-way interaction with people in the network of contacts.

While contact inertia may be unavoidable in today’s hyper-connected world; the tendency could have a significant impact on the productive use of social media for professional/business work purposes. Particularly, as social media is being used across a wide array of professional disciplines, the impact of contact inertia could be wide and significant, potentially causing inefficiencies and below-par achievements.

Then, raises the question: ‘how to deal with the contact inertia when using social media’

To answer the question, below we propose some strategies to deal with contact inertia when using social media for work in particular. While the proposed strategies are not conclusive or exhaustive, at least they provide a point of start that can be refined as needed based on the ground realities.

  1. Categorize contacts in groups to keep track of potentially forgotten contacts

One of the key strategies to staying in the loop is to organize a long list of contacts in identifiable groups. For instance, by using the Tag function in Wechat, one can organize contacts in various groups. Such a categorization/grouping can help in identifying people with no contact and initiating contact to stay in the loop.  Such a strategy can go a long way when working together with contacts on project and non-project-based work and improve efficiency as people will know each other and would have developed a better rapport.

  1. ‘Sharing is caring’ still works

‘Sharing is caring’ is not just an old age saying but is an important trait or a strategy to stay in the loop with many many contacts at the same time. Sharing authentic and useful information with contacts could help overcome contact inertia and make it easy to productively work with people when using social media for actual work.

  1. Forward useful info if it is from authentic source(s) to social media admin for dissemination

Forwarding authentic and useful information to social media admin for further dissemination to the relevant project and non-project-based groups can help overcome contact inertia.  People tend to recognize and trust people that could help provide useful info in today’s world full of all sorts of accurate and inaccurate information.

  1. Tag people in useful messages

Tagging people directly in useful messages could be vital to stay in the loop with people for productive contacts. People will appreciate the gesture and hence more likely to remain in contact which could help overcome contact inertia when social media is actually used for project work. Obviously, a balanced approach is needed when tagging people.

  1. Appreciate the value of SM as a medium to enhance f2f contacts for relationship building

Social media can also be used to enhance face-to-face (f2f) contacts. Using video or voice call functionality of social media or actually meeting someone f2f could go a long way in relationship building and ultimately help in overcoming contact inertia.

Concluding thoughts:

Connectivity sans contact is like the sun without shine.  Connectivity could improve productivity when people contact each other and stay in the loop. However, given the ease with which connectivity is getting multiplied, remaining in contact with contacts is not easy, often resulting in people falling into the trap of contact inertia. Therefore, it is desirable to deal with contact inertia at, both, individual and organizational work levels. We have, thus, proposed some strategies to help overcome contact inertia and make productive use of social media for work.

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Jiwat Ram
Jiwat Ramhttps://pmknowhow.wordpress.com/
Jiwat is currently working as a Professor in Project management at Excelia Business School France. He did his Ph.D. from the University of South Australia and MBA in International Business from AIT Thailand. Jiwat has over 20 years experience of working in industry across banking, construction, service, and education sectors in an international setting. For the last more than 10 years, Jiwat has worked in academia teaching at Executive Education, Master’s, and bachelor’s levels. His teaching includes courses on Artificial Intelligence, project management, management, and research methodology. Jiwat has published his research work in top-tier, high-impact factor journals including the International Journal of Production Economics, the International Journal of Project Management, Computers in Human Behaviour, the Journal of Global Information Management, and Enterprise Information Systems, among others. Combining academic and non-academic work, he has published over 100 articles in journals, conferences and industry outlets. His published work has been well received and four of his published papers have ranked in the Top 25 most downloaded papers from ScienceDirect. His two papers have been ranked in the Top 25 Most Cited articles as well. Jiwat’s research is focused on the impacts of technologies such as Social Media, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence on businesses and society. Jiwat likes to understand how we can leverage upon the use of innovative technologies for business growth and productivity. Jiwat regularly contributes towards the development of new thought and ideas in business and technology management. As such, he has a growing portfolio of publications on some of the contemporary issues in the management of projects and organizations. Jiwat also publishes his work on social media platform Linkedin to connect and reach out to other industry professionals. His work has received a good following with a significant number of posts cited as reaching top 1% engagement on Linkedin. Jiwat’s content on LinkedIn can be accessed at: #ideannovation_jiwat Please feel free to connect with Jiwat on LinkedIn by clicking on the Icon above.

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CONVERSATIONS

  1. I came back to your post, Jiwat, as I promised. :) The term “contact inertia” is something I experienced with my professional contacts on LinkedIn in recent years. Many of them do not focus only on LinkedIn, where we started our relationships but are active on other social networks. I believe it is hard for anyone to manage multiple professional networks, so I lost contact with many of them. The only way I can draw my LI contacts’ attention is to tag them, and I’m not a fan of tagging.

    I found SM such as LinkedIn inefficient in PM. Instead, I use an app such as Whatsapp for creating a group of people involved in project work where we can promptly share all information and ideas about the project. It works great.

    As for contact inertia on social media, in general, I see it in a broader context of social inertia. LinkedIn is great for studying human behaviour, i.e. interactions between people in one’s network. Most users have repetitive interactions only within a small group of their connections, no matter the size of their networks. It follows the law of inertia, “staying in motion with the same speed and in the same direction.” :)

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