Social Networking at Work
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 search.twitter.com 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.