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Is Social Media Good or Bad For Business?

Some Things To Consider

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Business owners often struggle with the question of whether or not their employees should be using social media in the workplace. There are obvious reasons why they shouldn’t, but there are certainly potential benefits as well, and unfortunately not a lot of clarity to the matter. So let’s look at this from several different angles.

Stats

Security company FaceTime Communications has released results from a survey in which it asked over 500 IT managers and employees about their Internet and social media habits at work. The survey revealed that:

- 79% of workers use Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube at work for business reasons, and of those business reasons, 54% cited professional networking, 52% said research, and 52% said learning about colleagues were what they used them for.

– 82% say they use social media sites for personal reasons

– 51% of workers use social networks at least once a day

– 62% said LinkedIn was their preferred network for business purposes while 55% said they prefer YouTube for personal reasons.

Based on this survey alone, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the amount of people using social media for business reasons and those for personal ones. There is no clear cut answer to the question, "Is social media good for my business?" There are obviously pros and cons.

Pros

Social media is a good way to network with other professionals in any given niche. In fact, there’s hardly a better, more cost-effective way to do this. It’s literally free not counting your ISP fees and any on-the-clock time used. It can be particularly effective for an entrepreneur who is still trying to make a name for his/her business.

Along with networking comes the second major pro, which is branding. The more you network within communities like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, etc, the more your brand is going to be exposed to others. For the established brand, social networking can help keep that brand fresh in the mind of said communities.

Cons

A decrease in productivity is often noted as a con to using social media in the workplace. As the numbers from the FaceTime survey indicate, this certainly does occur, although the amount of people using social media for business reasons isn’t much lower than the number using it for personal reasons. The problem is, there isn’t really a tangible way to measure the amount of productivity reached by these efforts. Just like it is hard to measure brand awareness.

Social Media in the Workplace

In relation to this, another problem is the economy. Can a business owner afford to have employees spending precious hours on a networking or marketing strategy that may not deliver measurable results?

Facebook ProfileSocial media by its very nature is individually oriented and not company oriented. It’s often hard to distinguish if an employee using social media like Facebook or LinkedIn is in actuality promoting herself instead of the company. How should a company manage employees directed to utilize social media in the company’s interests? It is a difficult question to answer but one that must be answered if social media is to go mainstream with business.

A more concrete flaw with social media in the workplace is the security threat that it can pose  to a company. Third party applications are becoming more prevalent in social networks, and along with those, vulnerabilities are popping up (see the Facebot experiment).

"For all four years that FaceTime has commissioned this survey, end users have claimed they have the right to download and use whatever applications they choose to help them do their jobs. This year’s study also reveals their social media habits have extended into the workplace and may be contributing to security and data leakage incidents," said Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management at FaceTime.

Variables

The truth is, there are a number of variables that come into play when deciding if social media has a place in your workplace. First off, who is using it? The positive/negative impact it can have is likely to depend on the role of the employee who is using it.

Which social networks/sites are being used? I’m not going to favor one or the other, but depending on what type of business you are in or what your goals are, Twitter might be more useful than YouTube, or vice versa. Different networks have different elements as well. For example, you may find commenting on a MySpace blog to be of some use, but also find that messaging "friends" does little to help you achieve your goals (again – or vice versa).

Yahoo ProfilesAnother variable to consider is that the lines between what is social media and what is not are becoming increasingly blurry. I tend to lump blogs and forums in with social media, because of the community elements they provide (my thinking has been – if you’re socializing with others, why isn’t it social media?). Lots of existing sites are adding social elements as well (think "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" for fans of NBC’s The Office). Even Yahoo has gone social by opening up user profiles to social interaction.

In the End

I’ve championed the use of social media for businesses repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean it is a perfect fit for every business. When it comes down to it, managers and/or business owners are going to have to take stock of what they are trying to achieve, and if such achievements can be met with social media. Then they’re going to have to decide if it is worth it to them in terms of time and money (Lisa Braziel has some good questions to ask yourself when it comes to this). The fact of the matter is, it can go either way, and unfortunately to really get good results, it’s going to take some time and effort, and even if you get good results it can be difficult to measure. What do you think?

Is Social Media Good or Bad For Business?
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  • Chris Crum

    Thanks Eric. It should be a thought-provoking conference.

  • http://www.lenen-nu.nl Lenen

    The businesses you’re in is a very important factor to determine if the use of social media is profitable for the company, the knowledge and network of your employees.

     

    • Chris Crum

      Absolutely. That’s one of the variables that comes into play. There might not be as much use for an auto mechanic shop for example, as say an SEO firm. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits an auto shop could utilize, but their employees are likely to spend their time working on automobiles rather than social networking. Whereas an employee for an SEO firm could likely find new clients.

  • http://wwwcn.myspace.cn/spicecn Jane Jiang

     I would say it is a risk to use social media networking whatever for business purposes or personal reasons in my experience while I do get benefit in some ways. But no pain no gain, I think it is worth it ;)

    • Chris Crum

      I see you are an PR expert. I can see this being a good profession to utilize social media for business reasons.

  • http://TornadoMktg.com/blog Adrianne Machina

    The problem I see with categorizing your time between personal and professional is that social media is really designed to blur the lines between the two. 

    For business owners and managers, many of their friends and associates usually have the potential to become clients. In the offline world (real life networking) I know one thriving software company that built his entire business on his wine club friends. Country clubs have existed forever to blend personal and professional relationships. For "junior" associates, they might not understand that who they are personally has an impact on who they are professionally.  I liken that to "hanging out at the bar."  There’s usually no business benefit – it’s just a getaway.

    The way people network offline often mirrors the way they’ll network online.  You can’t delegate your own authenticity, so it’s important for business owners and senior executives to be involved in social media. Just like they probably learned not to launch into business talk before dinner is served, they have to learn not to launch into a sales pitch before they’ve developed their online relationships. And it’s equally important to remind junior associates that posting party pictures on Myspace can be a career-limiting move. 

    As a business owner and a marketing consultant, I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging as a way to attract new clients and business partners.  My clients – most of whom are software developers and value added resellers – are jumping on the bandwagon with some amazing results. 

    Adrianne Machina, Tornado Marketing
    Duct Tape Marketing Coach

     

    • Chris Crum

      Interesting country club/bar comparisons.

  • http://cozumelrentalvillas.com Bob Rodriguez

    Social networking is more of a diversion at work and decreases productivity.

    This kind of activity can be done at home after work. For the most part it is self interests that drive this kind of activity not work related.

    • http://www.newmediachatter.com Dave Peck

      Great information!

       

  • Chris Crum

    Thanks for the link, Sasha. There are some pretty interesting findings from that research. They do seem to favor social media in a big way from the customer’s standpoint.

  • http://www.commarketing.com Sharon Swendner

    As a career marketer for over 20 years I have watched the changes in how media and marketing are used and perceived by the end customer.  The fact is that we are no longer in control and social media is one of the things that has changed that.  Customers care more about what others say than what we as marketers say.  We need to understand this and also understand another fundamental that has been out there for a long time, but not just practiced effectively—relationship marketing.  Our opportunity is to use these two trends, and they are trends not just fads to make our voice a part of that social media relationship.  That means it is essential for us to understand what is going on, how to use these media in a respectful way and how to be authentic about how we exist in these new worlds, both personally and professionally.  That means we must be there with our teams as we learn how to build relationships in this new online community.  I encourage my team to be out there as that is the only true way we will be a true part of this not just someone on the sideline trying to figure out how to get in the game.  What you lose is far greater by not being there.

     

  • http://www.myqute.com kelly

    I’ve had no luck with LinkedIn. My first question there made me feel as if I wasn’t in the right mix already. 2 out of 3 asked WHAT IS WORDPRESS?

    And my 2nd question,"Please visit my blog page and review the info about Youtube (there’s a video there as well).  How do you feel about Youtube’s latest video annotation & other technology?  Do you feel it’s a good improvement?"  One replied,"OH IT’S A BLOG." and another said,"I don’t know what that is."

    Later another LinkedIn member invited me to join Plaxo.com where he readily admits the crowd there fitted him better.  Turns out he and I both love 3D news.  (I didn’t join cos I am already soooo busy!)

    As for Facebook, I make it clear I have only time to reply messages, to check my Virtual Stock (my price is going up everyday – if this is also happening in real life!) and to click on Agree or Disagree for MineKey.

    I think many do not monitor their work, or miss out on prioritising when they use social networking sites.  That’s exactly what bosses frown upon.

    • Chris Crum

      You make a very good point about monitoring your work. Reputation management certainly comes into play when you get into the social media game. I’ve written a number of times about this for SmallBusinessNewz.

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com/ Diamonds

    thanks

  • John

    Social Media is good for relationships, feedback, brand. But that’s it. 

    Compared to investment into quality advertisement, SEO, PPC – Social Media optimization is too overvalued. Too less ROI. It can be taken as additional channel, but not as the main one.

    It much harder to convert general crowd into money, then why put too much attention to this, compared to niches and places where your clients are prepared to spent.

    If you need cash flow and profit (what every business needs) – then go for traditional channels, if need more relationships, feedback, and so on – make social media marketing.

  • http://fatherblogger.com/ Angel Cuala

    Nice analysis, Chris. I agree with your stats as I think would also be the result when landline is a common use. Business people are sociable, but sometimes they tend to discuss about personal matter when the bonding starts. Although one might think that personal talks is useless in a business transaction, I think this will add trust between the client and the server.

    As a blogger with a small business, I am not yet maximizing the use of social sites and this post will be a lot of help.

     

     

  • http://www.hophunt.com Free Ads

    Thanks. That would mean social media sites are the best places to hang out and promote online business. So far, we don’t see any significant success in terms of conversion but in seo terms, social media is very good.

  • http://www.aims.co.il Zvi Peretz Cohen

    Thank you Chris for bringing up this very interesting subject.

    I have been researching the use of social media in Internet Marketing and found that networking the various groups can lead you to interest sectors dedicated to a specific aim, subject, technology, product, etc. much in the same manner as with PPC. 

    In my opinion one should network in the social media as part of a general strategy including bloggers, forums and bookmarks.

    Have a good one!

    Zvi

  • http://www.compucall-usa.com/blog Olivier Amar

    I think it all comes down to the productivity of your staff. I’m pretty loose with my staff as long as deadlines are being met and the work is worth what the client is paying for it. When Either of those two issues are compromised, then I usually tell the employee I don’t want to see any Facebook/Myspace/Youtube or whatnot.  You don’t want your employees to feel like they’re walking into a sweatshop so it’s up to you to find the balance.

    • Chris Crum

      Yes, unfortunately it can be hard to pinpoint that balance.

  • http://stores.ebay.com/Jimmy-and-Marshell_W0QQsspagenameZL2222QQtZkm?refid=store Guest Marshell Baumgarner Russell

     

     

    Hello,

    I sell on eBay, so for me Twitter, blogs, etc. are a way of life. I believe the main thing with social media is all folks want to get to know the person(s) behind the products/services.

    In this fast paced day and age, it is much simpler to go online and read about someone; either about them or how they run there business.

    I, personally, believe in letting folks know who we are, and what we stand for. This is very easy using social media…like, I believe in helping with cancer drives, so I might send out something on Twitter, or blog about it. I might have something on my face book, or my space.

    Of course, we are a two person business…which eliminates the need to supervise employees. However, I feel as long as these folks use these sites in connection with there job, they are letting people know what kind of folks you hire, and how you treat them! This will give a potential customer some outside info about you and your company.

    I have a very good friend who runs a small brick and mortar. She asks her potential employees if they use facebook, twitter, etc. and then she checks them out! You would be surprised the wealth of information you can get about a person just by reading these things.

     

    • Chris Crum

      They do provide a human element that can help inspire trust from the customer’s perspective.

  • http://www.peronii.co.za Dirk

    I once had a client who was complaining about loss of income due to staff members browsing social sites too much.

    I recommended that he made it ‘mandatory’ for his staff to insert the company web address and a banner on their home pages and voilais, lots more instant backlinks and brand awareness. Won’t always work, but this was a nice way to turn a negative into a positive…

     

    • Chris Crum

      Not a bad idea.

  • http://familylawlawyersflorida.com/ Marc from Miami

    If your competitors can use it against you then you have no choice, unless you want to fail. 

    This new marketing tactic, as it is viewed by small businesses, must be utilized.  It would be like sticking to your bows and arrows while rifels abound. 

    Dont resist change!  Its the only thing that is constant.  The entire universe is in motion and changing…..   …. and speeding up. 

  • http://www.brooksvillepc.com Florida Search Engine Optimization

    If a company wants employees to use social media sites to build the company brand they should first consider creating a positioning statement and copy platform for their workers to read, and have them sign an agreement to follow them whenever posting.  The postioning paper is what defines the quality of a service or product that makes it special – so that it positions that product by giving it a uniqueness as defined by the company and not the employee.  The positioning paper also defines who the targeted audience for that product is – the end consumer as defined by the company.   That target could be people in good health in their fifties, or it could be college grads just out of school and entering into the work force.  I think that if the employee isn’t given some sort of guidelines like this in writing, then it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a lot of social media contributing that’s conveys more of the employee’s own personally than the company’s message. 

    The copy platform is more in depth than the postioning paper and is made up of more specific kinds of things – it’s more like the kind of thing script-writers use to keep all of the actors in character throughout a television series, and keep the story line straight from episode to episode.  You can’t have three or four employees each saying different things about what a product does on different social media sites or there will be conflicting messages that could cause confusion or hurt the brand name if compared. 

    For public relations and trust issues, a company will do better if it presents a consistent message.  A solid image is a good thing – like a party platform in politics, each company position on the most important product and service issues should be made known to the employee, and faithfully presented in any message written by the employee whenever required.

    • http://omcsocial.com Lee Down

      We’re in a time when people expect more from their freedom. People have been following the leader for such a long time, and the past decade has been an uncomfortable one all over. What we see happening now, expressed here, and changing the landscape of how we relate, the choices we make, who we will work for, etc., are all indicators of this reality.

      Giving employees something that says this is our brand, our position, and you will follow it – please sign here – is akin to not having a social media plan.

      Social Media Marketing is a managed approach to being transparent. If you cannot be transparent as a business, then it begs the question about any potential ethical issues with the company or its people.

      Take the leash off, let people speak their minds. Or did everyone forget that controversy is often better marketing than good, well-managed, and boring news?

      You want loyalty? Don’t force it.

  • http://omcsocial.com Lee Down

    Social media has been a big part of my world, even before it became a buzz-word. I was a power-user for years before it became an occupation.

    Social media is good for business. Productivity losses, however, should be looked at in two different ways.

    1. Loss of productivity is a daily occurence with or without the social media influence. Studies already have shown the stereo-typical employee is generally only capable of 60-70% productivity for the entire time they are at work. It isn’t even about laziness, it is simply the human capacity, needs, and behaviours that have established this fact, along with the reality of the world of work being one full of constant interruptions, changing priorities, etc.

      Loss of productivity as an observed reality just because they’re on facebook, doesn’t mean it has to be unproductive. And since when, did relationship building online amount to an unproductive use of time?

      Initially, there will be a lot of wasted effort as the stumbling around with the social site, applications, and people being explored. As time passes – up to a year – the focus will narrow in on areas creating more impact.
       

    2. Unproductive employees are typically a sign of a lack of health and/or well-being, either with the workplace, or with the employee. Time-wasters still goofing off on a social site likely goofed off other ways before social media came along. This is where a company needs to look at how actively they engage their employees. Are they fulfilled?

      People don’t goof off when they’re fulfilled by what they do, or by taking part with the group they work with. If people are glued to a social site like facebook, instead of being glued to their work, then there is a hole they’re trying to fill in their workday experience. It’s not all about work, it’s social and internal needs too.

    Social sites, by their very nature and intent, are socially engaging websites. Something that socially engages often offers a sense of fulfillment in a brief space of time.

    Business: Take note of what has been said long before social media sites became a reality. Successful, productive, creative, and fulfilled employees are a direct result of engaged employees.

    How are you going to create the dynamics in your workplace so that it becomes a place that engages and empowers your staff?

  • http://web-designer-s.com/ web designing articles

    I have read that some companies have forbidden access from their computers to social media web sites like Facebook, and some other social media web sites for this reason.

  • http://www.answeraddict.com answers to questions

    I think it comes down to managing your social marketing and interacting with everything you can find no matter if its good or bad.

  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/seo-web-design.php chicago web design

    Thanks for the great info about social marketing. If you can manage it well it can be the most powerful marketing you can do.

    • http://www.prestige-apartments.com Apartments Kampala

      Amazing stuff..Never knew Social Marketing could be so varied yet fun.

      • http://www.123together.com Hosted Exchange

        Yep..Social Marketing is the tag line of the future.

  • http://www.blackhatseoworld.com BlackHatForum

    Social media is ok until business people come in thinking “we are going to storm into this innocent-land” and then the people using social media are like “don’t come in our place” and so the business people try to do fake things to blend in and that lowers the quality of social media for both sides.

    • http://www.blackhatteam.com Seo Team service

      you are just Right!

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  • http://www.sightseeingtourslondon.com/original-london-sightseeing-tour-p-32.html Original London Tour

    If you are good at business then social media can be very good for business, but there are no quick wins – you will need to make social media work for the customer first and foremost and thats where people fail.

    • http://www.hotelruch.com Hotels Kampala

      I would say social media is the new world of marketing .. free, varied, universal and catching. Traditional advertising media doesn’t even come close. Great article by the way.

    • http://www.zenerex.org Zenerex

      Social media is extremely important in business development , though there are some dis advantages as well

  • http://www.wellness-for-you.org Wellness

    The businesses you’re in is a very important factor to determine if the use of social media is profitable for the company, the knowledge and network of your employees.
    Greets Wellness

  • http://car2be.com Tom Anderson

    The good

    We

  • Guest

    I wholeheartedly agree with the above. If not you, your competitors will. We’re in economy 3.0, adapt, or…

    Jerry
    Head over to mcvictor.com and find out how easy it can be to make money online

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  • http://www.flv-converter.us FLV Converter

    I think it is a addictional help for us search infos/

    • Guest

      “I think it is a addictional help for us search infos/”

      I believe the above post indicates the professionalism that represents those who believe social networks serves positive business needs.

    • Guest

      its bad because we never needed it in the 1800,
      why would something so’good’ ruin, a great world?

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    IMO its always good, because you open yourself to a lot more opportunities for marketing your goods.

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