I recently attended a networking event with a number of business leaders. At some point, the discussion tuned into the use of social media at work, and suddenly I was part of a very interesting and intense debate, as a CEO of a small IT company proclaimed, “in his company employees are fired if they use Facebook during working hours”.
The CEO’s argument was that Facebook is a private social network and therefore should not be used at work. Additionally, he proclaimed that it’s a time waster, which means that the employee’s productivity drops. Whereas LinkedIn is far more work relevant, and therefore he allows employees to spend limited time on LinkedIn during working hours.
New social platforms are constantly appearing and most people are typically active on several social media platforms. Take me as an example; I am present on Facebook, LinkedIn, Lync, Twitter, Instagram, Yammer, Skype, Snap Chat and WhatsApp. I normally use LinkedIn and Skype for business purposes, in order to be brought up to date about competitors, financial and business news, and business trends. This is also where I communicate and maintain my network. Yammer is my company’s internal social media platform, where employees share information about projects, technologies, methodologies and clients, and use it as a platform to work in global teams. I primarily use Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Snapchat and WhatsApp for private purposes and to keep up with what friends and family are doing.
I am actually a very average social media user. However, at the same I must admit that the boundaries for when I use social media is becoming more and more blurred. Twitter is a good example of how the boundaries are blurring, as I can no longer categorize my use of Twitter as either business or private. It truly is both, as I now follow channels for both my private and business life. I get very useful knowledge through the network, and my use of Twitter corresponds to a news channel like TV or the Huffington Post.
Social media is also about communicating with (potential) employees, shareholders, clients, news media and networks, sharing knowledge, visons and views. It is important for me as a manager to be present on relevant social media and to promote my company and our proposition. I actually expect that our employees also spread, share and like the good news about Columbus though their social media.
Therefore, for me social media is an integrated part of my daily life. It is a way that I can keep myself updated and share knowledge with the world around me. I am always online and available and jump in and out of different social media to make sure I am up to date. It is now one big melting pot, which is also the reality for many employees. The boundaries between work and free time has become blurred, which I believe that is positive for the company.
Even though I understand my fellow CEO’s arguments about banning Facebook, I must disagree. Firstly, I do not believe in prohibition, I believe in freedom with responsibility. If the employees spend too much time on Facebook or other media meaning that they do not get their work done or reach their objectives, it’s a management task to stop the overuse, just as if you “in the old days” had an employee, who spoke too much privately on the phone. Of course, that is not acceptable. Secondly, it is impossible to limit the use of social media, as the technologies merge and converge on our smartphones. Facebook and LinkedIn becomes e-mail and Outlook becomes chat and news service. It is a battle that cannot be won.
A ban against social media within the company is utopia and creates an image of “old school” business leaders. The use of social media will only increase and the boundaries between working time and free time will vanish even more. My advice to business leaders is to embrace the development, actively use social media in the company’s interaction with the world around you and make sure to activate as many employees as possible. That way, the company will be able to initiate a ripple effect creating more business.