How Do You Feel about Employees Using Social Networks During Business?

May 14, 2009

Social networking doesn’t just belong to the Gen X and Gen Y generations anymore.  The fastest growing segment on Facebook is now the 35-54 year old user—and that demographic includes the baby boomers! That specific metric grew at a pace of 276% over the last six months of 2008 which means if it continues at that rate, it will be doubling every two months![1]  Facebook’s community is growing older each day and with numbers like these, someone in your organization will be joining Facebook or another social network if not today, tomorrow!

With employees joining social networks the question “How Do You Feel about Employees Using Social Networks during Business?becomes very relevant.  As the employer what is your immediate reaction to my question?  Is it a “No, and I mean no!”  Or maybe you are thinking about rethinking your response, and perhaps you may be one of those who haven’t even begun to think about social networking at your company.

It is not possible for anyone to answer the question for you or your organization, but I can provide some food for thought!  According to a study in Australia at the University of Melbourne taking a social network break can improve productivity. This report released on April 2, 2009 states, “Surfing the net at work for pleasure actually increases our concentration levels and helps make a more productive workforce.”[2]

According to Dr. Brent Coker, the lead investigator of the study, Entitled Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing (WILB) can be attributed to people’s imperfect concentration.  “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration.  Think back to when you in class listening to a lecture–after about 20 minutes your concentration probably went right down, yet after a break your concentration was restored.”

In a recent study by Deloitte LP entitled “Enterprise Value of Online Communities Yet to be Realized,[3]” they measured the responses of over 140 companies, including Fortune 100 organizations, which created and maintain online communities today. The communities ranged from fewer than 100 members to more than 10,000 members.

The Deloitte study found, “Communities can extend the edge of the corporation in truly transformative ways  –  tapping into new talent, helping design products and services, providing customer support and, most importantly, building the brand with the customer,” said Ed Moran, director of product innovation, Deloitte Services LP. “The survey data points to some growing pains, but companies are starting to see that online communities should be nurtured and leveraged for real business gain.”

So here is what I have garnered from reading the latest research:

  • People, including baby boomers are joining social networks at an extremely rapid pace
  • Social networking can improve productivity in the workplace if done in moderation
  • Using a social network for marketing purposes can provide talent development, innovative design production, and brand recognition

And therefore, the proposition on the table becomes how to marry these recommendations to work in your organization!  Can you do it?  Are you up for it? The W Group would be pleased to help you navigate in this new world!

I do have a word of caution:  be sure that if you develop this new element of business 2.0, that you avoid the pitfalls of social notworking! And that can be another topic for discussion later.[4]

 

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist practicing internal marketing communications.  Her company, The W Group creates communication strategies that ensure employees, associates, and donors take notice and take action!


[1] Istrategy Labs  http://www.istrategylabs.com/facebook-demographics-2008-update-its-getting-older-in-there

[2] University of Melbourne, http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/news/5750/, April 2009

[3] Deloitte LLC, http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/press_release/0,1014,sid%253D2245%2526cid%253D217168,00.html, July 2008

[4] Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Social%20Notworking&defid=3617456

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