Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it! Ok the last example was a lie, but the all-encompassing behemoth of Social Media is, whether you like it or not, here to stay.
When a service has got to the point where my Mum is using it, there is no going back. It’s not too far off the truth to say that she contacts most of the family via Facebook now, foregoing the phone. It’s a shift in how families communicate and in my eyes a welcome, more convenient one.
However, all is not rosy in the garden. Too often we have read in the papers about celebrity faux pas exposed on Twitter and other networks. More often than not this is a case of drink-fuelled quick-fingery on their Blackberry and after the initial media furore their agent smooths things and we go away and wait for the next mistake. (Schadenfreude is a great thing). Normally the only result of this is free publicity for the star.
In business however, badly handled social network interaction can often result in actual harm to the company, be it in reputation or monetary loss, and this is when done as a deliberate act of marketing!
Conversely, well-done social media interaction brings the customer in to a much closer relationship with the company. Mobile Telco’s are a good example of this, with at least Vodafone, O2 and Three using Social Media platforms to assist with customer support. A personal example of this is my interaction with 3 when asking about an update to an Android handset I own. They responded within an hour which was refreshing.
What happens when you unleash the great-unwashed on the social networks during company time? Thankfully in the majority of times, nothing -however… According to the Ponemon Institute, a recent survey of company IT professionals revealed that 63% think that social media puts an organisation at risk and most IT managers monitor or block social network use.
Really though, is social media usage in the work place a totally bad thing? Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, commented:
“I suspect there’s more than one reason why staff are using social networking sites at work. Of course, there will always be people who take advantage, but bear in mind that employees in the States and the UK work very long hours, so they have to spend some time while at work to organise their lives”.
It could be argued that social media usage during the working day is a stress reliever, a healthier alternative to a smoke break maybe.
Whatever your thoughts, there are some things that definitely should be considered:
- Is there a chance of data leakage?
- Is there productivity loss?
- Do you have a social media policy?
- Can you control it?
Every company should be thinking seriously about social media in the workplace, and how it affects them. Steps taken now will undoubtedly save corporate face later.
Don’t be too quick to shut the gate on social media though. A happy employee is an efficient employee!
Now, just off to update my Facebook status, my Twitter feed, my Tumblr blog, oh and I have a couple of pictures to upload to Flickr… and I MUST not forget to check-in on FourSquare…
Mark Thomas, is 40, Mayor of his local take-away and hates being disconnected from the hive-mind. Follow him here – where all his spoutings are his own and in no way associated with First Option Technologies.