Social Media in the Office

When social media first came to the office, IT departments we tasked by management to make sure it was blocked from the work computers. Spending time on any social media website certainly wasn’t being productive.

If it was viewed a website was used for entertainment, then it was blocked. You shouldn’t be watching YouTube at work right? Checking out Facebook? Strictly Verboten.

As the smartphone revolution took hold, blocking someone from a site on their work computer just meant they went to their phone to view it. But the biggest turn of events came not from blocking employees from wasting time, but blocking them from business needs, unexpected connections that reap a benefit, and marketing opportunities at every turn. If it’s your business, wouldn’t you want every employee to be networking?

While YouTube is certainly an entertainment website, programmers will often find the answer to their particular question as a video on YouTube. If you want an employee to learn a new skill, guess where the free training is? Time and YouTube just may be all the training they need.

A friend of mine from High School is now a Water Rights attorney. I noticed one evening she had posted a picture of some historical remnants, just because she thought it was interesting. She also mentioned she had to find out more about it. While a number of her friends offered less than helpful advice, I decided to ask some people at work about it. We joke that URS is the largest company you’ve never heard of. We have a couple archaeologists in my office, so when I got to work, I copied the photo from Facebook into an email, and forwarded it. I got back a ton of info that I forwarded to my friend, making her job easier, and making a new connection for her if she needed more help on the subject. All this happened because she posted the details of her work on Facebook, and has connections happy to help. She knew I was in IT, but had no idea I had coworkers in that field.

It seems to me the staunch opposition against social media in the workplace is worry over employee inefficiency, unfamiliarity with it, and unknown value.

Employees who don’t have enough work or tight enough deadlines will find a way to waste time, Facebook or no Facebook. Some might argue to give employees the means to not work, so that it’s easier to notice the ones who do.

Top IT Management must not only become familiar with the Social Web, they need to be the leaders in the application of it when other Line of Business leaders are demanding it. Ignorance in their field will lead to embarrassment at least.

Making decisions based on fear of unknown value leads also to blocking unknown advantage. As with the example of my lawyer friend, there was no downside with sharing the work she had ahead of her, so without expectation, she did. The result was an advantage completely unexpected.

The decision needs to be made to unblock and utilize the Social Web creating a Social-Enabled Enterprise capable of competing with others who already have.

The potential advantages of the Social Enterprise:

  • New Customers
  • Real-Time Customer Insights
  • Employee Motivation
  • Recruiting new Talent
  • Deeper relationships with customers and clients