Necessary Networking

While reading “Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work”, I began to realize how essential social networking has become in the workplace during these past few years. It is true that many of these once “personal” forms of communication and entertainment have recently become the primary method of communication in many workplaces. Most employers are now looking for experience with social networking when hiring new employees, so I was motivated to research the pros and cons of this trend. I ran into an article on CeraIt.com titled “5 Problems with Social Networking in the Workplace”, and found these points highlighted:

The Benefits

Expanding Market Research

Social networking sites give businesses a fantastic opportunity to widen their circle of contacts. Using Facebook, for example, a small business can target an audience of thousands without much effort or advertising. With a good company profile and little in terms of costs, a new market opens up, as do the opportunities to do business.

Personal Touch

Social networks allow organizations to reach out to select groups or individuals and to target them personally. Businesses can encourage their customers to become connections or friends, offering special discounts that would be exclusive to online contacts. This personal touch is not only appreciated but may give the business access to that customer’s own network of contacts.

Improve Your Reputation

Building strong social networks can help a business to improve its reputation with as little advertising as possible. Social networks can boost your image as thought leaders in the field and customers/contacts start to acknowledge your business as reliable and an excellent source of information/products that suit their requirements.

Low-Cost Marketing

Once social networks have become established and people become familiar with the brand, businesses can use the sites or applications to implement marketing campaigns, announce special offers, make important announcements and direct interested people to the specific Web sites. It is mostly free advertising, and the only cost to the business is the time and effort required to maintain the network and the official Web site.

The Concerns

Social networking sites are applications and, as such, are generally not a problem for organizations. It is the people who use them that are a cause for concern. Social networkers, if one can call them so, are the root of five problems for an organization that allows social networking at work.

Productivity

One reason why organizations on social networking in the workplace is the fact that employees spend a great deal of time updating their profiles and sites throughout the day. If every employee in a 50-strong workforce spent 30 minutes on a social networking site every day, that would work out to a loss of 6,500 hours of productivity in one year! Although this may be a generalization, organizations look very carefully at productivity issues, and 25 hours of non-productive work per day does not go over well with management. When you factor in the average wage per hour you get a better (and decisive) picture.

There is also an effect on company morale. Employees do not appreciate colleagues spending hours on social networking sites (and others) while they are functioning to cover the workload. The impact is more pronounced if no action is taken against the abusers.

Resources

Although updates from sites like Facebook or LinkedIn may not take up huge amounts of bandwidth, the availability of (bandwidth-hungry) video links posted on these sites creates problems for IT administrators. There is a cost to Internet browsing, especially when high levels of bandwidth are required.

Viruses and Malware

This threat is often overlooked by organizations. Hackers are attracted to social networking sites because they see the potential to commit fraud and launch spam and malware attacks. There are more than 50,000 applications available for Facebook (according to the company) and while FaceBook may make every effort to provide protection against malware, these third-party applications may not all be safe. Some have the potential to be used to infect computers with malicious code, which in turn can be used to collect data from that user’s site. Messaging on social networking sites is also a concern, and the Koobface worm is just one example of how messages are used to spread malicious code and worms.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is becoming a fine art and more and more people are falling victim to online scams that seem genuine. This can result in data or identity theft. Users may be convinced to give personal details such as Social Security numbers, employment details and so on. By collecting such information, data theft becomes a serious risk. On the other hand, people have a habit of posting details in their social networking profiles. While they would never disclose certain information when meeting someone for the first time, they see nothing wrong with posting it online for all to see on their profile, personal blog or other social networking site account. This data can often be mined by cybercriminals.

Employers must be on the lookout for information that their employees may post, as this may have an impact on the company. People often post messages without thinking through what they’ve have written. A seemingly innocuous message such as “I’m working this weekend because we’ve found a problem in our front-end product” may be a spur-of-the-moment comment but could raise concern among customers who may use that system, especially if the company handles confidential or financial detail.

Reputation and Legal Liability

At then time of authorship, there have been no major corporate lawsuits involving evidence from social networking sites. However, organizations need to watch for employees who may be commenting publicly about their employer. For example, one young employee wrote on her profile that her job was boring and soon received her marching orders from her boss. What if a disgruntled employee decided to complain about a product or the company’s inefficiencies in his or her profile? There are also serious legal consequences if employees use these sites and click on links to view objectionable, illicit or offensive content. An employer could be held liable for failing to protect employees from viewing such material. The legal costs, fines and damage to the organization’s reputation could be substantial.

Do you guys think this trend is a beneficial one that should be continued considering the pros and cons?

References:
Kelleher, D. (n.d.). 5 Problems with Social Networking in the Workplace. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.cerait.com/5-problems-social-networking-workplace

Posted on November 16, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In my opinion, the question does not pivot on the question of pros vs. cons, but on the knowledge that social networking is not a trend. In fact, social networking is far from a trend or fad, but is here to stay. Therefore, I would see the question more as “how can I position myself to incorporate social networking in technical communication” rather than “should I incorporate social networking skills into technical communication”.

  2. I attended a work meeting today in which the director of marketing mentioned that instead of releasing an official press release, we would just “blog the heck out of it.”

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