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Social Networking at Work

January 28, 2009

I had an interesting question from an employee yesterday.  She was commenting on someone’s Facebook status updating during a meeting, and asked what the rules were on that.  That is, did I permit employees to be doing social networking stuff, like FB, Twitter and blogging while at work, especially at the expense of other activities like filling out grids and launching promotions.

First, let’s take a step back.  The person whose Facebook status updated during the meeting was most certainly doing it through a quick tweet on his Blackberry.  I don’t believe he was sitting in his office calling into the meeting or sitting on a laptop in the meeting room.

Even so, a quick Tweet is not a bad thing – it’s part of what he tries to do on Twitter.   That’s how he uses social media – as a way to inform people what his job is so prospective authors and customers get to know him better and put a face and a personality with our company.

Which brings me to my employees and what I want them to do on sites, and when.  I have a great group of people working for me, and I know, fundamentally, that they have a grip on what has to be done for the job.  I don’t think I’d find myself in a situation where work wasn’t getting done because they were killing orcs (or whatever those things are) on World of Warcraft, or were consumed with throwing sheep on Facebook.  They know that they have responsibilities, and they get them done.

At the same time, social networking gives us invaluable opportunities to learn more about our customers and connect with people in a way to inform what we do at work. My colleague who runs our UK operation, Christine Dunn, has said that she encourages her staff to literally surf the ‘Net for an hour a day.  She wants them playing around on different sites and seeing what’s out there.  She also encourages them to do “out of the box” promotions for their books.  Some work, some don’t, but she’s all about trying new things, and it’s a great way to inspire her staff.

My rules are that I try not to blog at work, unless there’s some immediate breaking news that I simply must comment on.  I blog at night or in the morning, and set up times for stuff to automatically post during times of higher traffic.  I tweet throughout the workday when something comes up, often from my blackberry, and check in on Facebook once or twice.  You could compare my Facebooking to a cigarette or snack break.  Want to clear my head, take a breather from what I am doing, I check into FB.  It’s healthier and doesn’t cause cancer.

I’m certainly OK if people in my group treat social networking the same way.  I’m also not adverse to having people troll around on the web for a set period of time every day.  While you can argue there may not be much work value in “throwing sheep”, you can also say that you never know what is going to inspire someone.  Maybe one of my marketers will see some crazy application on Facebook that inspires a new promotion for one of their books.  They might take the time to answer a question on LinkedIn that shows Wiley in a new light.  Or they could notice on that customers are talking about a new product and how much they could use a book for it.  How am I to say how and where inspiration strikes?  My point is it can come from anywhere, and I’d never want to totally rule it out for anyone.   As long as people are still focused on tasks that help drive revenue, a few minutes a day pitching sheep isn’t going to hurt anyone.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathryn Bourgoine permalink
    January 28, 2009 11:02 am

    *applause* Social networking is the face of our customers. Economy aside, how people access information–any information–has changed. A few true stories– a colleague has used Linked-in to post his status and found authors; I recently posted a discount code for our WileyCPE and within that hour, the site got 9 hits. In 4 hrs, it had gotten 24–that’s 24 new unique visitors to the site. Customers are listening–best that we’re the ones they listen to.

  2. Laura Cowan permalink
    January 28, 2009 12:27 pm

    It’s great to see someone in publishing embracing both balance at work and the opportunities social media offers to connect with customers/clients. Bravo!

    Laura Cowan

  3. January 28, 2009 2:13 pm

    Great Post!

  4. January 28, 2009 8:04 pm

    Ellen thanks so much for this post. And to be fair, I was not Tweeting during the meeting. Given the fact that I was seated next to my boss who happens to be Executive Group Publisher and Vice President, it would probably not have been a good move on my part. It would have, at the very least, drawn a question from him.

    If you look at the tweet in question (, it was very clear that I was just out of a meeting where you did a social media presentation to the sales force and not in the meeting itself. The Tweetdeck tag on the status is a dead giveaway as well since we all know that’s just s desktop client. And, like many of us my twitter status also happens to automatically feed my Facebook status. I don’t generally post status updates at both places.

    And your point about why I am involved in social media in general, and Twitter in particular is that it is a great way for me to interact with others in the publishing industry, our authors, prospective authors, readers and customers. This particular tweet was meant to tell people that we get social media, and consider it an important part of how we do business – at least some of us do.

    I have found new authors, technical reviewers, and new book ideas interacting with people via social media. I have answered customer service issues on behalf of the company, and pointed readers towards our products when it makes sense. I interact with our partners (yes many of our partners are participating in social media) and even our competitors. I cant tell you how many times I have needed a contact within an organization and had it delivered to me on a silver platter via social media.

    As for if it should be something I am doing at work I’d have to say that I believe its a part of my job. As a publisher who is always looking for new ideas, new partners, new authors and new books, I don’t see how I could not be using social media in some capacity. It always provides an opportunity for me to represent my organization, my work and our products.

  5. January 29, 2009 8:47 am

    Chris, just to be clear, as apparently I was clear as mud in this post, no one was calling you out in a negative way, other than to ask a really thoughtful and good question. The employee in question geniunely wanted to know how this fits into the working world. Also, I have to imagine, was curious about how you were able to change status seemingly in a meeitng. I totally agree about this being part of all of our jobs and have subsequent blog posts covering (well, my feelings at least) that subject.

  6. January 29, 2009 11:32 am

    Absolutely not upset, but thought it a great opportunity to share my thoughts on the subject as I know we are of alike minds.

    Thanks for letting me “guest post!” 🙂

  7. January 29, 2009 4:42 pm

    Chris, you’re more than welcome to guest post anytime…always love your take on things.

  8. February 4, 2009 10:46 pm

    Hey, you Wiley-ites need to loosen up when it comes to Twittering and blogging at work. It’s not only allowed here at O’Reilly, it’s encouraged! Tim leads by example as I’m sure you see his many tweets throughout every business day. 🙂

  9. December 2, 2011 4:31 am

    This is often a truly great read to do, Really need to confess that you’re most likely one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Appreciate your offering this informative post.


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