The New Normal of Work Includes Social Media

Read enough about productivity on the internet – especially in social media circles – and you’ll undoubtedly find counsel to cut down on “distractions” like Facebook and Twitter, or to stem content creation in favor of doing the “real work”.

The Real Work Thing

Ostensibly, this Real Work of which we speak (and I’m sure I’ve probably said something like that myself) is about doing the things that are concrete, tangible, and most likely relative to a day job or whatever work pays the bills. For me, it would be work that’s pertinent to my day job as VP of social strategy for Radian6. For you, it might be dealing with clients as a PR exec, or managing your team, designing websites, or any number of things.

In short, it’s the stuff that you’re supposed to be able to point to and see some kind of “real” result that moves your business or other goals forward. By whose standards we’re judging “real” I’m not quite sure. But there’s something very important to remember.

I have an incredibly demanding job, as I’m sure all of you do. If I wanted it to, it could easily consume my days completely for as many hours as I’m willing to dedicate to it. Plus, I have a home and a family and friends that I want to have time for.

So, things like blogging or time just connecting on Twitter or browsing my feeds for interesting content seems like a luxury. Something that doesn’t have a place amongst the rest unless I want to admit that I’m “wasting” time.

The Reality of New Work

The truth of the matter is this.

These things  - this creation and connection pattern – is a tremendous part of the new normal of work today, and even more so in a job like mine.

Writing helps me explore ideas that in turn lead to practical applications of strategy for my job, exploration of new ideas with peers and colleagues, or even the makings of a book.

Connecting on Twitter allows me to participate in awesome conversations (yes, I still have them all the time), say hello to dear friends that don’t share my geography, meet new people, and help or connect with people in relation to my work, speaking, or otherwise. Hopefully in the meantime I might add or share something valuable myself.

Browsing content helps me learn new things, test my assumptions, discover new voices and rediscover familiar ones. It gives me perspective, information, knowledge. And while there’s tons of it out there, I know I’ll never absorb it all, so I take what’s good and make peace with leaving the rest. And having it means I can pass it along to someone else.

The Reset

This IS real work. These things aren’t merely distractions to be easily dismissed out of hand as wasteful or empty. They are a core part of my work, and not just because I work in and around social media (my job also encompasses things like executive management and leading professional services). They’re just different, and slowly replacing things that might not be as relevant anymore.

To claim otherwise would be hypocritical at best (how can I express how important these things are if I’m not dedicating my own time to them?) and selling the value of it all short at worst.

So I’m rebalancing again by allowing time in my day – deliberately and without remorse – to include and continue to integrate these elements, just like meetings and phone calls and project work. They’re important to the new normal, my new normal, the way that work exists for me today. And they’re integral to what and how I do what I do.

I think I might have started to lose sight of that a bit in the quest to balance everything myself, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to put that back to rights. Hey, even those of us who believe whole heartedly in the value can require a reset.

What’s Your New Normal?

And you? I know I used “I” a lot in here because it’s a perspective I’m exploring for my own universe. But I want to hear your take on this,  your variations on the theme.

What’s the new normal of your work balance today that might not have been there a few months or a few years ago? I’m curious about how social media has changed the way that you work, or if.  Is creation and engagement a nice-to-have, or is it woven into your work?

Thanks, as always, to all of you for making this adventure so utterly and completely rewarding and worthwhile. Let’s talk some more.

  • Kenna

    I certainly have worked social media into my work. I am a journalism professor who now teaches about multimedia and using social media for content promotion. I also blog on a journalism blog ( that I use as a class resource. The true goal of my blog is to connect current and future journalists. This means creating an online conversation. I spend a lot of time cultivating this connection in hopes that it will benefit both parties and give me hands-on experience as I learn to teach in a new, constantly changing area.

  • Planning Queen

     Up until the release of my book, I would leave twitter and facebook at the end of my to do list.  Now because of the feedback I am receiving on the both of them, I need to be checking in more regularly to respond and interact.  

  • Grace Bosworth

    This article is right on!  As a small business owner, we pay a lot of attention to social media and could easily have someone whose job it is to soley manage our various outlets.  Small businesses (actually no businesses) can ignore these avenues, and it is certainly not just for fun. 

    One of the advantages to loving your work is, like the author said, the fact that you can incorporate your writing into a way to brainstorm and clearly get your ideas onto paper.  It is work but you become a true student of your industry and it allows other businesses and industries to get to know each other and connect!!  Social media is a huge connector for the language services/translation industry.

    Thank you for the blog topic.  I personally spend about 4 hrs or more on or using various social media outlets a day.  However, it is time we are using to work on other things, we just let our connections see what we are thinking about as the day goes by!

    Grace Bosworth
    President, Global2Local Language Solutions LLC 

    • Silvina Jover-Cirillo

      I follow Global2Local on Twitter and I also read their blog. The effort pays off: I very much enjoy your blog! Thanks to your entries, I get to know your business’ point of view regarding our language/translation industry, as well as your thoughts in relation to the relationship between companies and translators. It is always nice to read your comments.

  • Anonymous

    GREAT post and thanks for the insights!

    Totally agree with your premise that these relatively new activities are becoming the EXPECTED normal. And if your goal is to become an authentic, trusted resource that others look to for content that is of value to them and that they will share with others, achieving this often elusive goal can only be accomplished one way: over time with consistency and persistence. More on that here:

    Keep up the great work!

  • Rick Stilwell

    Sending this to my boss – who already understands, but it’s good to give supporting evidence. And you’re right, this is a new normal. And I think it’ll be even more normal as time goes on, even for folks outside of your/my field of business. For some people, this is luxury and wasted time – but you pegged it with “The Reset”, needing to change how we look at the medium and what we can do to learn and interact there together. All that to say, thanks for posting. And for (hopefully and acknowledgedly!) letting me piggyback on it with my thoughts later on my blog, too. :)

  • susangiurleo

    I integrate reading blogs into the start of every day. I do that instead of reading the newspaper (remember those?). I have twitter up all day long when I’m not in meetings and use it to connect in social and business ways throughout the day. That ‘do the work, cut the distractions’ jazz has always confused me coming from people who make a living working in and talking about social media, so I do appreciate and agree with your take here. 

  • Mike Handy

     I love that your blogs are always useful and cool. 

  • 40deuce

     Thankfully, like you Amber, using social media is part of my job. It’s hard though to sometimes not let it distract you too much. I have what the doctors call “shiny-object syndrome” where I get very distracted very easily, and I’m still learning to get that right balance of work and play. However, without me being able to use social media my job would become almost useless. 
    Now if I can just learn to focus better.

    Great post as usual.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • Anonymous

     Hey Amber, This is such a conflict even for those of us who believe, who know that the world of marketing has changed, and completely embrace new media, or whatever the name of the day is. 

    For me, it is pretty easy on Saturdays and Sundays to follow a rudimentary schedule of writing, kicking out some content and so forth for our businesses. However, once the work week kicks in and the everyday challenges of running a small business rear their heads, consistent content creation can, and does slip.

    I am though past the point of some guilty feeling of “is this really what I am supposed to do today” and know it is a must do. Clearing things off the list is where the value lies. 

  • Nick Bennett

    Nice post Amber. It’s reassuring to hear your point of view and I’m in agreement. I think the line is blurring between time spent working and time spent discovering peripheral information through social channels. There is so much inspiration and thought bouncing around… it’s almost a crime to not get engaged.

    For me it’s a breath of fresh air to look up from ‘real work’ and get distracted. Granted it eats into precious time. But it’s a worthwhile sacrifice IMO. Although it needs a little control from time to time, distraction is a healthy side effect of a curious and creative mind.

  • DJ Waldow

    Your last point/question hits home: “Is creation and engagement a nice-to-have, or is it woven into your work?” The answer (for me) is that it’s woven into my work. I think it has to be. You and Jay mention this (much more eloquently) in The Now Revolution, but we don’t have time to wait. We can’t “respond later” or “create content next week.” I think that in this new normal phase, it’s critical to be constantly engaged and creating content. That being said, and as you know, that’s tough!
    Is being on Twitter or Facebook a distraction? Unproductive? Sure can be. But so can talking on the phone or going to a meeting. And, just like other forms of content consumption/production, there are times when the time/effort you put into a project pays off and other times were it’s a colossal waste of time.

    However, I would not be participating so actively in social media if …

    A. I didn’t love it.
    B. It didn’t work.

    That’s where I am, today at least.

  • Scarlet

     ”This IS real work. These things aren’t merely distractions” 

    You can’t see me, it would be totally creepy if you could, but I think my head almost fell off I was shaking it in agreement so much while reading this blog.

    Unfortunately, a lot of employers don’t get this. It harkens back (yes, I just worked ‘harkens’ into daily language, go me.) to a tweet I posted a few days ago – Employers encourage creativity in their workers. They want robots, not critically thinking individuals who can lift their companies beyond their competitors. 

    Like you said, you’re learning, testing & discovering while online. That’s fantastic. Sure, there are people who miss out on the true grit of the internet and spend their day playing Farmville, but I think more and more of us are using it to better ourselves internally and ultimately, externally.

  • Eric Wittlake

    Amber, You nailed it. We value learning, brainstorming, forming perspective on our markets and where they are going. However, when we are on-task, we rarely have the opportunity to step back from the specific project at hand.

    I started blogging (after threatening to for years) a few months ago, and the process of stepping back from daily work has been invaluable. Likewise, Twitter has become a more important source of information than Google Reader, I find new opinion and thinking that helps to refine my own view, and in many cases, I have the opportunity to connect with the source directly.

    If we want to push the boundaries of what our businesses can accomplish, we have to open ourselves up to a broad range of new thinking and ideas, constantly challenging and refining our own perspective. And that is work.

  • Ryan Critchett

     I’m all over this right now. I’m working for an IT company right now that is slow to love the real shift taking place as a result of the new social/net integration battlefield and I’m convincing the owner of the need to view blogging as work, engagement on Twitter as work and getting into the communities of the various webospheres, as work. 

    On the other hand, I’m a blogger that blogs about something completely different than computers and social has completely changed the way I blog. I spend more time linking up with people than I do anything else and that has been one of the single most effective strategies for any degree of growth in my operations. 

    It’s invading! Great post. 

  • Laura Click

    I think so many businesses and people are facing this conundrum. As our networks grow larger, it inevitably consumes more time. And then, just like our “real work”, we could spend all day writing and connecting online.

    Just like most things, it’s all about balance. There are no right are easy answers here. I like what you said about pushing the reset button. I think we need to do that when things get to far off balance – spending less time on social networks (and more automating) so we can focus on the work or focusing too much on the social media that we’re losing focus in other areas. Going too far in either direction is not good.

    It’s quite the delicate balancing act that has to be determined uniquely by each person and business. There are certainly no right answers.

    I think there’s been a lot of fuss about streamlining and cutting out the distractions lately, that it’s good to hear someone stop and say “wait, a minute – this is more than just a distraction.” There’s a reason why we all started doing this in the first place. There’s still value here, it’s just about being intentional with your time while doing it.

  • Erica Allison

     Ah, balance.  That elusive concept that we all think we have, but in reality, we usually don’t.  This is a big issue as more and more small business’ ‘boot strap’ their PR efforts and turn to social media to do it. If they jump in full force, they’ll quickly realize the time it takes to be effective may be more than they bargained for and something quickly gets OUT of balance.  I struggle with this both as a PR pro and as someone who coaches my clients on how they should use social media for their businesses.  As a mom, business owner and like you said, girl who wants to occasionally see her friends, social media and my online presence (blogging, commenting, reading) can quickly consume a lot of my time.  

    That’s why I do so appreciate things like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that allow me to schedule the content that I’d like to ‘curate’ and then leave me the time during the day to chat back and forth and focus on my work.  It’s a time-saver. Reading all of these awesome posts?  I’m still trying to balance that one!  

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       @EricaAllison:disqus @lauraclick:disqus @AmberNaslund:disqus Amber, I really love this post.  I decided, about 4 months ago, to entrench myself as a “student” of social media.  I allocated this time to finding out as much information as I could, learning, learning, learning…connecting to amazing people…reading fantastic posts.  I dove in head first, and am just now emerging to integrate that learning into my business most effectively.

      The one thing I happen not to believe in is balance. Erica, it is indeed “that elusive concept that we all think we have, but in reality, we (and I would remove the word usually) don’t.” 

      A lot of my coaching focus is on helping people remove the pressure they put on themselves to be “balanced”.  Even when a body is “balanced”, there are small micro-adjustments occurring, so it’s really about dynamic balance…an ebb and flow, up and down, constantly adjusting active state of life.

      We have enough self-imposed pressure we put on ourselves: to think we can achieve balance is another false pressure we don’t need.  I say the only time we’re balanced is when we’re dead.
      At every other moment, we should accept and revel in the ebb and flow of life.  Just like the inbox that will never be empty, so too our lives will never be truly “balanced”.  I liken it to a teeter-totter, with two kids, feet on the ground, teeter-totter horizontal, nothing moving, total inertia.  To think that we could create that equal, equidistant, “perfect” balance is something that I see so many of my clients aspire to attain, and then beat themselves up for not achieving it.

      So I say…throw balance out the window…embrace imbalance!  So Amber, the very thought of a “work balance” is not in my vocabulary.  It’s about being aware of the imbalance, and teeter-tottering actively through life, without putting additional, undue pressure to lead a “balanced” life.  Just my two cents.  Cheers!  Kaarina

      • DJ Waldow

        Katrina: really love the “embrace imbalance” concept. Thanks for sharing!

        • Kaarina Dillabough

           Thanks DJ!  Just found you on Twitter and now following:)  Cheers!

  • Nikki Stephan

    You’re absolutely right. When I need a mental break, I’ll often use that time to scan through my reader/Twitter stream or respond to a few tweets. I’ve felt guilty in the past because this can be considered wasting time, but it’s exactly like you said – I’m participating in great conversations, I’m adding to my knowledge bank and I’m sharing things that are (hopefully) of value.

    I think the balancing part is the most important. Client/company work must come first. But if social is part of your work, you have to weave in the educating/connecting part. It’s just like any multi-faceted job – it’s a prioritizing and juggling act.

  • Julia Carcamo

    I couldn’t agree with you more if I had written this myself. I keep saying that social media is like breathing to me…it keeps me alive and helps me grow. I’ve met so many people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and now they’re expert sounding boards.  

  • Shanks Stephanie

     I think that it’s easy to still struggle with feeling as though I’m “wasting time” when taking personal/career development time on the company dime. When I was a teacher, Facebook and Twitter were blocked from district computers from 7:30am to 8:00pm which really drove the point home that this was a frivolous use of productive time. I’ve been working in the social media industry since November of 2009 and still I struggle at times to justify its use…especially as the workload and responsibilities increase. Ultimately, however, in this industry (and most, now) NOT spending the time is ultimately detrimental as I run the risk of losing touch!

  • Erin Hathaway

    This is such a great post and so true for many people today. I struggle regularly with many that think that my time online is exactly what you noted, wasting time. I don’t feel I would be as productive without connections and interactions I have while on Twitter or elsewhere. I am hoping that the climate will change so others can truly see the value that these connections have across the board. 
    Thanks for this post!

  • Erin Hathaway

    This is such a great post and so true for many people today. I struggle regularly with many that think that my time online is exactly what you noted, wasting time. I don’t feel I would be as productive without connections and interactions I have while on Twitter or elsewhere. I am hoping that the climate will change so others can truly see the value that these connections have across the board. 
    Thanks for this post!

  • Anardecchia


    Great article on how social media is becoming the new norm.  As a product of Generation Y, I graduated from college last year and immediately began working for a real estate company.  Luckily my boss is very innovative and in tune with the  ”next best thing” so he immediately put me to work with my first task of increasing our company’s fan page to 1,000 fans on Facebook.

    As the Director of Corporate Communications at Asset Plus Companies, one of my responsibilities is also to post a weekly blog on our company’s website: and at first I was so nervous about posting a blog and spending time syndicating our blog to our Facebook feed and twitter feed that I wasn’t performing my best.  It took me some time and communication with my boss to realize that the blog and syndications are important to our business because we are able to communicate with our customers and employees honestly and publicly via the web – and it helps in our SEO. 

    I think having upper management that supports and encourages their employees with their social media initiatives is imperative in seeing success.


  • Chase Cornett

     As a new PR professional right out of the gates of college graduation, it has been difficult at first to distance myself from my tactical centered mindset that I had in school. My work no longer focuses on check lists and due dates as it does a conceptual understanding of our agency’s ( overall public relations goals and how social media plays a part.  

    While embracing these changes, I find myself monitoring and engaging in social media conversations on the web that are relevant to our agency’s goals, strategies and messages of two-way communication with clients. This is a change in the work responsibilities that I’ve grown accustomed to. I’ve come to understand that this is the “Real Work” of our constantly changing industry. While the old checklist work mentality still has its place, I think I will try to ride this social media wave for as long as I can. 

  • OurSocialPeople

     It’s definitely an important thing to integrate social media as part of your work day. That’s what we focus on at MarketMeSuite- making it very easy and efficient to work through that part of the day and maximize results!
    Great article, thanks so much for posting! And thanks to Janet from @oneforty:twitter for telling me about it!
    Tammy, CEO @MarketMeSuite:twitter 

  • Ricky Yean

    I think the best performing workers in the future will always have a finger on the pulse of the world and the industry. Their ability to make adjustments and produce high-quality results that are both relevant and timely will put them on top. 

  • Steve Woodruff

    Of course, Twitter and Facebook et. al. can be a tremendous waste of time – unless you’re using them to learn, build connections, add value, strengthen business relationships…you know, all that good stuff business people have always done (but now can do more efficiently). For me, as for you, there is very little separation between living/networking/business. It’s relating. And I have no problem with that!

  • Shauna Stacy

    I’ve found myself battling each day. The difficulty is not just in making time to find the ammo (such as exploring content and people and engaging online or off) but in letting go of the guilt/shame around those activities. There’s a little voice constantly asking “Is this efficient? Is this the right use of your time?” 

    “GTD” has its uses but maximizing my creativity seems to be requiring a bit of deprogramming… Being efficient is easy. Shuffling papers is easy. Preserving and growing creativity is hard!

  • christammiller

    I have allowed creation and engagement to become “nice to have,” but I don’t like it, and I’m trying to make room again — I miss those connections and I find it’s harder to adapt on behalf of clients who need social strategy….

  • Lori Richardson

     Amber, thanks for this. In working with small business owners, the #1 comment I hear is that they ‘don’t have time for social” – and I think over time, and reading more posts like yours, people will see that this IS how we build business now. 

  • Lori Richardson

     Amber, thanks for this. In working with small business owners, the #1 comment I hear is that they ‘don’t have time for social” – and I think over time, and reading more posts like yours, people will see that this IS how we build business now. 

  • Sam

     I spend 40 hours a week talking and listening, it’s what I get paid for – so discovering this amazing world of new ideas, conversation and community has thrown quite a “wrench” in my proverbial routine.  I often feel guilty if I engage with people on twitter and haven’t had a chance to check out their latest post or fundraising project.  

    As a way of managing this internal pull, I have(1)  limited the number of people I engage with believing that more is not better and (2) try to dedicate an hour each morning, before everyone is up, to explore others’ worlds.  

    You always write great posts – they hit the target of my personal experience – each and every time… 

  • Tom Martin

    You make really great points here Amber. Funny, lately I’ve been absolutely swamped by my job and have certainly dialed back my Social activity. I’ve been treating it as a luxury instead of seeing it for what it truly is — a necessity and a desired one.

    Thanks for the well timed reminder.


  • Tom Martin

    You make really great points here Amber. Funny, lately I’ve been absolutely swamped by my job and have certainly dialed back my Social activity. I’ve been treating it as a luxury instead of seeing it for what it truly is — a necessity and a desired one.

    Thanks for the well timed reminder.


  • Jeremie Averous

     Hi Amber. I concur that you nailed it precisely. New Work beyond the Fourth Revolution is really what you’re talking about. The problem is that we can’t really measure the value we create by listening to all these ideas and focusing on creative activities rather than Industrial Age “productive” activities. The challenge is now to measure and improve the value (and demonstrate the value to your boss if you’re in salaried employment!!)

  • julia cantor

    This is such an interesting concept to me… I finally realized I’ve gotten to the point of checking my  @ replies and DMs before email in the morning, so Twitter really is a primary form of communication for me.  Removing Twitter from my daily routine would be similar to removing email at this point.  
      Like others who have commented, I have 2 monitors and keep Tweetdeck open all day.  I think 2 monitors is really key in maintaining focus and productivity.

  • Pingback: Five for Friday

  • Pingback: Friday Protip: This IS Your Real Job | The Metaverse Mod Squad Blog

  • Tim Jahn

    “To claim otherwise would be hypocritical at best (how can I express how important these things are if I’m not dedicating my own time to them?) and selling the value of it all short at worst.”

    In my eyes, that statement discredits the entire message you’re claiming. Of course you want this all to be real work.  If it isn’t, you’re out of a job.  Not sure that’s the strongest argument.

  • Pingback: How to explain social media to your spouse |

  • Pingback: How to Explain Social Media to Your Spouse « Business Growth «

  • Pingback: Letting your employees use social tools

  • Luis London

    I use Social Media at work, to communicate and learn from others, from Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Tumblr. To communicate what I have to say and keep contact with peers and other companies. I also use my personal blog for this.

    At the office we are suprised how many big companies, who offer services are not present on Social media! Montreal is a big city, but needs to wake up in this matter.

  • Anonymous

    Social Media and Technology has transformed HOW I work, not to mention the kind of work I do. It is new within 18-24 months for me, actually every single tool here is new within that timeframe for me and now it’s the new NORMAL for me and my company Impact People Practices.
     Here is a starter listSkype: I use it more than my cell phone for calls. When i meet someone and we are connecting online we exchange skype user names. In addition, I skype chat all day with people to move projects or initiatives forward. Facebook Groups: This is not only a core network, but a collaboration space, a resource go-to and a support group all in one. The “tribes” I belong to in these groups that are 110% relevant to the way I work and what I work on, add huge value, save me time and give me valuable knowledge. Don’t know about something ? want to find out more about something? I go to my XYZ FB group and ask them. Need a sounding board? same thingEmpire Avenue: I have made more important and relevant and valuable connections via ticker than any other recent SM platform. These virtual connections have often become REAL time and REAL person connections and I can think of two recent examples that have now turned into real collaboration on a projectHootsuite: I use Hootsuite to stay on top of conversations and relevant connections across several mediums and with several keywords and with several people I follow. #leadership #coaching #social HR #HR 2.0 and more… very BIG BIG worlds and using hootsuite to manage Twitter lists and connect authentically with the people in those lists saves me time AND allows me to be more targeted and focusedTechnorati, Google and more: I search constantly for information, content, formats, platforms that move me further along when creating my content or finding info. I am always looking for who are the people to follow? the content that makes sense for my audience? new approaches that are relevant? 37signals products: I use 37signals that creates project management tools that are real time collaboration- with clients and sub contractors and other people I work with. We all access the same tools, conversation threads and that visibility helps us move faster, in a more informed way, with greater buy in, with less mistakes, more creatively. 

    I could go on with another half dozen tools, but I will stop here. What these tools have allowed me to do is trascend time, space and traditional “hierarchy” to be more relevant, more speedy, more informed, more creative, more collaborative….. and it’s paying off big time in the richness of opportunities I am uncovering, and the people I am meeting!

  • OopEducation

    Brass Tack thinking you guys are just great ..tons of thanks fro sharing this post ..get in touch

  • Michael Reynolds

    Love it. This sort of encapsulates what I try to tell business professionals all the time but you said it much more eloquently :) Nice work!

  • Pingback: The New Normal of Work Includes Social Media « Espy