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Your employees are Facebooking and Tweeting at work. Face it. We’ve all learned to accept it as a fact of life. But before you begin locking access to social networks altogether, consider a few ways social networking can actually help your workplace become more productive.Networking is a huge part of big business. LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, is corporate social networking. Every day contacts are made on LinkedIn that make money for businesses. If you, the employer, don’t have a LinkedIn account, you may be missing some money-making opportunities.
This is where your employees can help. That employee who spends all day on Facebook? Put him to work setting up your LinkedIn account. That lady in sales that loves to Tweet may be able to teach you a few things. Set up a company Twitter account and create a presence for your company there.
Networking also can help with research. That project you assigned to the new intern? She had no idea where to find the information she needed, so she pulled up her Facebook account and posted the question to her 5,000 friends and family members. Within 10 minutes she found out her friend from high school works with someone who would love to answer any questions she has. The end result of that project is far above anything you could have come up with on your own. All because of social networking.
Never underestimate the power of technology. In the past few years, the Internet has given users a way to have networks of friends with them all the time, everywhere they go. Flat tire? With just one status update, you can find out the best tire place in your town and you might even find out a former college classmate owns a place that will give you a great deal. If you can harness this power and use it to help your small business, you might be surprised at how much social networking can do for you.
But for the most part, employees use social networking as stress relief. While some employees can get carried away, many of today’s workers are used to multitasking. At home they watch TV, surf the Internet, and talk on the phone, all at the same time. We, as a society, have grown restless when single-minded focus is required and cutting back and forth to social media throughout the day allows us the diversion we need to recharge. Even if you block sites like Facebook and Twitter on the server side, how many of your employees can access these sites via cell phone? Is it helping or hurting them? It might be telling to note that, according to this article in ComputerWorld, an Australian study found that social media increased the average worker’s productivity by nine per cent.
Internal networking helps your business, as well. Set up a company Facebook page and encourage everyone to follow it. The internal interaction will help your employees get to know each other better, boosting camaraderie and adding an element of teamwork that may currently be missing from your corporate environment.
That’s not to say social media doesn’t hurt productivity, as well. Certainly employees will abuse Internet access and that should be dealt with on a management level. But is blocking access to these sites the answer? Social networking is becoming a very real part of the corporate structure and if you aren’t embracing the technology, you may be left behind by your competition.
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