Why Should You Use Social Networking at Work?
October 14, 2009 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Many workplaces ban social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on. What are some of the reasons workplaces should allow (and even encourage) staff to use social networking sites?

I'm particularly interested in the case you would make to someone in the healthcare field but examples that are applicable to other areas, especially those that may ban social networking site for privacy or productivity reasons, are welcome as well.
posted by Jaybo to Work & Money (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Twitter is a great way to crowdsource breaking info. I'm thinking more from an IT POV. Like, network outages, ISP issues, etc.
posted by mckenney at 7:11 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Technology is becoming vital in most jobs. Therefore, those who use technology are better workers! The url to the

This article published in BizEd talks about it. Hopefully the link will work...
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:12 PM on October 14, 2009

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:14 PM on October 14, 2009

Best answer: I know this isn't EXACTLY the answer you're looking for... but I think this link might be useful. (Social Networking policies of about 100 different (but well known) companies).

In my opinion the biggest reasons to embrace/encourage social networking is as a tool to facilitate better "connection" (communication) with: 1.) coworkers and teams.. and 2.) your customers/citizens. (For example: You could subscribe to various health related Twitter feeds and use the aggregated feed to stay on top (in real time) of things like flu outbreaks, healthcare news or healthcare related political issues.)
posted by jmnugent at 7:16 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

My boss LOVES it when I get on facebook and say something about the flower shop I work at...such as "oh, I'm bored, come in and see me and buy some flowers...etc." And I know for sure of two sales I've gotten directly from that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:21 PM on October 14, 2009

I use YouTube all the time as a teacher, and I have had many an argument with the school's IT guy over it. He can't fathom why we would want to use it for legitimate reasons. I have told him each time (in the presence of my principal) that he is more than welcome to monitor my YouTube access if he likes, I have nothing to hide. I teach French and there is a ton of great karaoke, cartoons, clips of Disney songs etc. that have legitimate educational purposes in my classroom. In fact, I am about to base a totally adorable SK unit on a Sesame Street skit I found (in French) there---and yes, I plan to take the children onto the evil YouTube to personally watch it :)

I know another teacher who teaches a specific program I use and does training for teachers who want to use the program. She got parental permission to film some of her classes, and she routinely posts lessons on YouTube so others can see how she runs her class. They are such a valuable resource for others.
posted by JoannaC at 7:25 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

When a coworker is running late -- subway's having problems, stuck in traffic, overslept, etc -- my boss knows that 99% of the time I can find out via Facebook or Twitter why they're late and when they're likely to be in.

We use YouTube to do market research of competitors' products; there are always demo videos and we can tell a lot from them.

My company is also an active user of LinkedIn for hiring and finding references and encourages us to promote open positions on our profiles.

Also, we've become pretty active users of GTalk to communicate. Sometimes it's just across the office if we have a quick question, but if one of us is traveling or working from home for a day, we've found it an awesome way to be productive with each other remotely.
posted by olinerd at 7:29 PM on October 14, 2009

Because maybe the workers don't have that many perks and maybe if they get too disgruntled they'll start doing disgruntled-worker type stuff that will slow the company down way more than a bit of dicking around on Facebook would.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Paul Levy's (CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston) take on it:

"Any form of communication (even conversations in the elevator!) can violate important privacy rules, but limiting people's access to social media in the workplace will mainly inhibit the growth of community and discourage useful information sharing. It also creates a generational gap, in that Facebook, in particular, is often the medium of choice for people of a certain age. I often get many useful suggestions from staff in their 20's and 30's who tend not to use email. Finally, consider the cost of building and using tools that attempt to "track utilization and monitor content." Not worth the effort, I say."

Check out the comments for some further views, many specific to health care.
posted by bondcliff at 7:35 PM on October 14, 2009

Best answer: 1) Retention. Highly skilled employees have a lot of choices. I'm not THAT skilled, but I would never ever ever work at a place that banned these things. Not so much for the things themselves, but the mentality behind banning is not one I want to be around.

2) Breaks help. The idea that workers should be literally working every second they are in the office is provably wrong, provably dumb, and amazingly short-sighted. Little breaks every now and then help productivity.

3) if you treat people like grown-ups, they tend to act that way. If you treat them like children, they tend to act that way.

4) Common sense. These are means of communication people use today. Would you ban an employee from making a short call to his wife during the day? If not, then don't ban the modern equivalent. You make yourself look not only like an ogre, but a sadly out-of-date ogre. And at least online communication doesn't bother the rest of the office.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:01 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

My company is also an active user of LinkedIn - I have seen some of my company's posted there, too. More, I use it when I want to contact people outside of my little bubble er sphere of influence.
Notably, LinkedIn is not blocked by our otherwise very ambitious web filter.
posted by whatzit at 8:09 PM on October 14, 2009

I'm in mental health care (group private practice, at that)--networking is ESSENTIAL for me and my colleagues, and social networking is a good tool for all of us (even something boring like LinkedIn). Outside of that factor, we have a specialization that's rather unique, and we use our website and other online tools to get people in our community to know about what we do.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:21 PM on October 14, 2009

You almost need to separate jobs that include sales and marketing from other jobs. In the sales and marketing areas, social networking is so valuable it's pretty much essential.

But if your job does not include sales or marketing... it's a tougher sell, and tougher to justify the distractions from whatever it is you're supposed to be doing instead.
posted by rokusan at 9:17 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Technology is becoming vital in most jobs. Therefore, those who use technology are better workers!

This is a weak argument - a worker may have better skills yet be less productive, because they use their superior skills for commenting on Metafilter social networking instead of work.

You should request to have access to social networks because it's a normal, everyday part of your life, like calling home from the phone at your desk or taking breaks. Along with this, you should also acknowledge that not all use is appropriate, and spending your whole day on Metafilter social networks is similar to spending all day on the phone with your friends instead of working.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:02 AM on October 15, 2009

I can't think of a good way to justify it in a normal job that doesn't involve marketing or advertising. Even then, I can see where they'd only allow its use in an official capacity. My company banned streaming media and cut their ISP bill in half. Later, they banned Facebook, et al, and cut it almost in half again. We're talking, all told, over $1000 a month for a company with a couple hundred employees. It would be really hard to convince someone that that money would be a sound investment.

The least weak argument is the team building concept. But even then, it is a really sticky wicket to try and tell your boss with a straight face that you should be able to use company resources to plan happy hour.

Back when the internet was new, it was easy for employees and employers to overlook personal internet use at work- computers and ISPs were expensive, and people often didn't have access at home. Nowadays, with the ubiquity of technology and the heightened awareness of data security, I can't blame employers in the least for banning non-work related computer use.

And, it keeps your privacy intact. If you aren't using their facilities to access the sites, they will be less likely to monitor the sites and accidentally see your late night drunken "I hate my boss" or "calling in 'sick' tomorrow!!!" updates.

The "normal, everyday part of life" argument doesn't fly with me (though it might with your employers??). There are LOTS of normal things I wouldn't do at work. If it's indeed a normal part of life that you think you should be doing while at work, bring in your own computer or get a smart phone.
posted by gjc at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From another angle, there are healthcare/biomedical social networking applications like Sermo and Within3 - check those out for both arguments and alternatives.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:32 AM on October 15, 2009

I work in a law enforcement agency and social networking sites are a great way to track down people who can't be found through normal channels (I think this works because criminals are, in general, stupid people.)
posted by eleslie at 8:03 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the use/non-use of these is highly dependent on the workplace. We decided to clamp down about a year ago because we were having staff who were responsible for supporting volunteers answering calls in our phone room spend an inordinate amount of time on social networking sites. It was very inappropriate to the time/place/situation.

Since then we've gradually lightened up with certain people and roles in our organization - social networking sites are an important tool for us in communicating our messages, but we need to pay attention to how we are using them and make sure it is effective use.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:58 AM on October 15, 2009

Facebook chat actually keeps me off the phone. Especially because the 7 people in my office often work remotely, we just keep Facebook open all day and use it to get information or answers to queries rather than picking up the phone or laboriously writing an email. I can't tell you how much time and stress this has saved me. Of course, there are only 7 of us, and 3 or more are always in our main office on any given day. I think this would be more difficult in a larger office, and completely unnecessary if everyone's there anyway.
posted by nax at 9:42 AM on October 15, 2009

Businesses are increasingly trying to use social networking platforms to build and maintain a customer base, and to communicate with customers.

If they want to do this well, their staff need to have a good feel for what will work on twitter/youtube/facebook and what won't - which means that staff need to see the network as a business tool as well as a personal thing. And to me, the best way to develop this skill is to allow use in the workplace and encourage staff to see it as part of the job.

Also, social networks are only effective as business tools if there is a critical mass of people using the networks. If every single business restricts access during business hours, this would theoretically decrease the effectiveness of social networks as a business tool for everyone (while perhaps improving productivity for individual businesses).
posted by girlgenius at 4:27 PM on October 15, 2009

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