Five years ago, if an employee was caught on a social network during business hours, they would be called to the boss's office and reprimanded. Today, many companies have branched out with Twitter accounts, internal blogs, and even Flickr pages. According to the Center for Marketing Research at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 91% of the Inc. 500 is using at least one social media tool in 2009 (up from 77% in 2008). In terms of nutrition, 52% of RDs reported use of social media for professional use.
Promoting the use of social media for employees has proven to be good for business. But why allow it during office hours? Research has indicated that employees who were allowed to watch the latest You Tube hilarity, send out a few Tweets, or plow through their Google Reader throughout the day were more productive than those who worked straight through. Brief breaks between difficult projects allows the brain to reset, refresh, and renew leading to higher levels of concentration.
Here are some benefits of social media at work:
- connects out of office co-workers with those in the main office
- connecting with co-workers builds a team vibe
- allows employees to express creativity
- increases motivation
- liberal social networking policies can help retain talented employees: 50% of Americans who are in the process of looking for a new job cited loss of trust in their employer as a result of how business and decisions were handled
- social networks allow for quick question answering and problem solving. Tweeting about how your website is down and asking if others are having the same problem, may bring the website provider to get a move on fixing the problem
Are there potential downfalls to social media mixed with business? Sure. If you're not good about keeping yourself on track, or are distracted easily, Tweeting during crunch time isn't a good plan. There's also the problem of spilling trade secrets or business deals that aren't approved for public release.
Bottom line: social media has become a key to being competitive in the market, whatever your business is. A recent email on a dietetic practice group ListServ posed the following question: Do you let your students tweet out facts during class?
So now I'll pose it to you: Would you let your employees or students engage in social media during 'business' hours?