Everything and its opposite about using social networks at the office

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This week again the squabble about “pro or against using social networks at work” delivered some new arguments. While CNN was telling us using social networks at work could bring some benefits, the Confederation of British Industry ways saying exactly the opposite, stating it makes companies loose billions.

What’s the truth, if there’s any ?

According to me there are two kinds of use : those who want to amuse themselves and those who have business networking purposes.

In the first case it’s obvious companies will get nothing out of it. But it doesn’t mean they have anything to loose. Everybody knows employees aren’t efficient 8 hours a day. They have breaks, the have a coffee, and everybody understands it because it’s physiological : people can’t work efficiently, concentrate 8 or 10 hours in a row. And I can’t see the difference between surfing on the web, having a coffee break or talking with one’s colleagues.

In the second case, it’s about developping one’s network and, according to me it’s a kind of investment. Every employee’s contact can, one day, become a client, a prescriber, a recruit. So both the employer and the emplyee take benefits from the time spent to formalize and maintaining one’s network. I often quote as an example the french blogger Hervé Bloch who carried on the reflexion farther and once, at a debate on this issue, was able to provide the audience with an analysis of the benefits he took from his network backed up by figures : turnover due to his network, impacts on his salary. You can find more about the way he uses networks here [[fr]. I’m also convinced that his efficiency on neworking and the way it impacted his business played a big role in his recent promotion…

There are also hybrid situations. Maintaining relationship with friends on facebook (which I don’t consider being a professional tool you can use for business purposes) may make those friends, one day, help you with their own professional network for business purposes. For the only reason Facebook helped you keeping in touch with them. It’s also possible to hit it off with someone on a social network or a facebook group dedicated to golf, painting, wine or I don’t know what and, one thing leading to another, end by a business relationship.

According to be me the question is elsewhere : companies know how to calculate costs but don’t know how to calculate benefits. When an employee spends time on linkedin or discussing on forums, specialized blogs, it’s wasted time. But when these activities helps him to sign a client, make a recruitment easier, even increases its employer’s visibility, the company only book the order as if it felt from the sky ! As Steve Dale says, measuring 21st century things whith XIXth criterias is a nonsense. I fully agree when Jay Deragon writes that financial aspect highly relies on relathionship’s quality, what implies the time spent to maintain them is obviously an investment.

But things are not as negative as some would like to say. This survey from 01 informatique [fr] show most companies don’t panic and misuse of internet at the office is very  marginal. In the other hand this survey show young people would consider leaving their job if access to facebook was denied. Obvioulsy it’s such a part of their lifes that they can’t  envisage working without.

One more thing. It’s about people who use general public platforms like facebook in order to create groups and exchange information within them. There is a real potential danger there for companies who can’t control anything. But the response in not in prohibiting access, on the contrary it’s to provide people with the appropriate tools within the firewall in order they don’t have to look outside to find appropriate tools to do what they need. A few months ago I mentioned a Sofres survey which was saying employees wanted their companies to go on facebook. This is not the way I understood things. As facebook is becoming a sort of common name to describe some kinds of tools, I think they were especially asking their companies to provide them with the tools that makes possible for them to do the same things as in Facebook.

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Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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