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Social Media and Maintenance — A Slowly Emerging Marriage
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While social media impacts life in many ways for many different people and organizations, the resource remains mostly an untapped phenomenon among maintenance and engineering managers as a professional resource.
Facility Maintenance Decisions recently surveyed 450 managers on the benefits of mobile technology and the impact of social media and the internet. LinkedIn ranks as the most popular website among respondents, as more than one-half of the respondents — 51 percent — said they use it for work purposes. About one-half the respondents say they use Google searches to find information or seek professional advice. The two most common social media outlets, Facebook — used by 14 percent of managers — and Twitter — 5 percent — are used significantly less by managers as professional resources.
Two managers say social media’s impact on their departments has been limited but they are not opposed to the expanding the role it can play in communicating within the department and with the public.
“We don’t use it much, and I think it’s something we have to start encouraging with a little bit of reason,” says Jennifer DuPlessis, director of maintenance and operations for the Arlington (Texas) Independent School District. “When we deployed iPads to all of our technicians, it was like a Christmas gift with no directions. In retrospect, we didn’t talk about the potential pitfalls of social media or the properties of the device.
“We have to be more cognizant working at public schools but at the same time realize there are a whole host of uses out there. I’ve forwarded (information) to some of our guys saying, ‘Hey, take a look at this, read this article, and see if there is anything that is useful for you.’ Sometimes, we have to use all of our resources to learn what we’re doing.”
Don Turner, director of facilities planning, maintenance, and construction with the University of West Florida in Pensacola, uses social media to communicate with peers on issues affecting the maintenance and engineering management profession, as well as to share staff success stories with colleagues. Turner sees that aspect of the medium expanding.
“Like any other forum intended for communication, it will continue to be used to share best practices, new ideas, and thoughtful discussion,” Turner says. “It will also continue to be used by marketers to promote their offerings to facility managers.”
Some maintenance departments have gone all-in on social media. Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools uses Twitter and Instagram to help share their stories with the public.
“We share a number of things: new initiatives, success stories, people going above and beyond, our professional development opportunities, promotions, retirements, and lots of pictures,” says John Carnahan, operations department’s custodial services manager, who says Twitter also helps the district monitor weather conditions.