All or nothing – the pros and cons of social networking on the clock
by Keris Lahiff
Social networking, in case you haven’t noticed, is everywhere these days. And the line between personal and professional use has been well and truly blurred. So, when it comes to your business, how do you approach social media? Do you turn a blind eye and give your employees free reign? Or do you have a blanket ban? And does it need to be this black and white?
First, let’s look at the costs of social media.
Footing the bill
If you allow access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and all your employees do is waste time on these sites, then yes, you have a social networking problem. Among the many studies commissioned into the dangers of social networking (cue ominous music), most point to a loss in employee productivity and, consequently, a loss in the company’s financials.
A report published by US-based IT research firm Nucleus Research showed that in 2009, 77 per cent of workers have a Facebook account, of which almost two-thirds access during work hours for an average 15 minutes a day. Eighty-seven per cent of workers who access Facebook on the clock did so for personal reasons, rather than business. Add this up and it could account for huge amounts of lost time in productivity.
Social networking sites can spread malware and spyware through an organisation, without a user even being aware. Some sites can also accost networks with spam, phishing attacks and hacking.
With workers blogging and posting, the chances of confidential company information getting out increases. While this may be entirely accidental, non-harmful or well meaning, discussions involving your company could put your business in a compromised position.
Streaming and video social media sites such as YouTube and Flickr can consume large amounts of bandwidth, which can slow other business-related applications.
On the other hand …
Rather than a blanket ban on social media sites, some businesses are embracing the opportunity to market and network their business. Let’s look at the possible potentials of social networking.
An individual’s contact list and address book is increasingly syncing with their ‘friends’ on Facebook and other social networking sites. By banning social media, a potential pool of networking opportunities and communicative tools is inaccessible.
The sense of sharing and community that social networking sites foster can actually improve an individual’s performance. Rule number one of building a brand? Foster loyalty.
A survey commissioned by Dynamic Markets, a UK-based research consultancy, found that of the employees using social networking sites, 65 per cent said it made them or their colleagues more efficient and 46 per cent reported it had helped generate ideas and creativity.
Remember when we said that social media contributes to a loss in productivity? Well, this might not be entirely the case. According to studies by the University of Melbourne, allowing social networking as a means of a ‘work break’ could actually boost employee morale and concentration, winning back those lost hours from the productivity abyss. In fact, those workers who took small breaks between tasks (whether that’s in the form of a coffee break or logging into their profile) made the worker nine per cent more productive than those workers who did not.
The strongest case for social media in the workplace is the potentially untapped goldmine of marketing and brand building opportunities. The internet is increasingly becoming the go-to portal for consumers and clients to research products and services and if you are not online, you could be doing your business a disservice.
Whether you decide to embrace or ban social media in your business, there’s no denying that it’s out there. To ensure you have a control over social media and how your employees use it in relation to your business, develop an acceptable use policies strategy.
Published on: Thursday, January 20, 2011