Say you’re at work. You’ve got Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn up on your computer monitor. Your boss — or a peer — unexpectedly walks in. Which of the following most closely describes your reaction?
a.) Pleased that you’ve been noticed staying abreast of the latest in business communications and networking technologies.
b.) Embarrassed at being caught sneaking a peak at social media sites on work time.
c.) Fearful, or at least concerned, that you’ll be viewed as a slacker or, worse yet, reprimanded or fired.
Let’s not make this a hypothetical. Go ahead and take this one-question Touch Point City MicroSurvey, then come back to finish this post and offer your comment. Or, finish this post and then take the survey. Either way, we’d like to hear what you’re thinking. And we’ll publish the results in a future post.
After all, your answer to the above — tens of millions of people’s answer to the above — will have much to say about where we’re all going with social media as a business and marketing consideration.
The Big But
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are, without question, intriguing and potentially powerful marketing and customer service channels.
But — and here’s the big but — if the business professionals we marketers seek to inform and engage via those channels are hesitant, or even forbidden, to access the content and conversations provided there, we’ve got a problem.
Lacking widespread acceptance as a legitimate tool of business, social media might just become a channel to nowhere. At least it might during the normal business day, when many brand perceptions get shaped and lots of purchasing decisions get made.
Working Away at Social Media
It’s possible this question has already been debated ad nauseam. But TPC got thinking about it because of a study done recently by Nucleus Research, a Boston-based provider of IT research and consulting services.
In late July, Nucleus released “Facebook: Measuring the Cost to Business of Social Notworking.” Get it? Notworking?
Nucleus interviewed 237 “randomly selected office workers” about their Facebook use. Among the findings:
- 75 percent of those interviewed have a Facebook account
- 61 percent access Facebook during work hours
- Those who access Facebook at work do so for an average of 15 minutes daily, with the range as low as one minute and as high as 120 minutes
- 13 percent claimed to have a business reason for accessing Facebook; 87 percent couldn’t define a clear business reason for doing so
- One in every 33 created their entire Facebook profile during work hours
Based on its research, Nucleus came to this conclusion:
Companies that let employees access Facebook during
work hours can expect to see total office productivity decline by an average of 1.5 percent.
Rebecca Wetterman, Nucleus’ vice president of research, framed the survey findings in this stark context:
“If your company is facing tight margins and low profitability, as many are now, then how can you accept any work distractions that drain your overall productivity? While it won’t make you popular, restricting Facebook can reclaim lost productivity. If your profitability is say two percent, this could be the difference between staying open or closing shop.”
Does Your Content Empower Your Audience to Justify Your Social Media?
TPC isn’t privy to how Nucleus defines “total office productivity.” And we recognize that for some types of businesses (e.g., marketing and PR agencies), and some job categories (e.g., marketing, PR, corporate communications, investor relations), it’s more acceptable, even expected, for employees to spend time focused on social media sites during work hours.
But what about purchasing managers? Design engineers? Other product and service specifiers and influencers? If they’re shamed at the thought of engaging with social media, or outright barred from doing so, social media suddenly becomes a lot less social.
You wonder if there’s a day of reckoning coming. A day when our customers and prospective customers are going to have to explain to superiors — and to IT gatekeepers — the legitimate business reasons why they need to access and interact with social media during work hours.
If so, it’s going to be incumbent upon marketers to not just be “on” or “doing” social media, but to ensure the conversations and content that define our social media offerings are truly relevant and value-adding. In other words, that the social media you strategize and publish is actually doing something for your audience.
Otherwise, decision-makers critical to your brand and business success might be lacking the evidence they need to argue the case for accessing your social media during office hours.
As you ponder that notion, be advised that Nucleus has launched a second study to examine the impact of work-hours Twitter use on productivity, the findings of which might pose this philosophical question:
If a marketer tweets in the marketplace, but there’s no one online to hear it, does it still make an impact?
What do you think? Are social media and productivity headed for a High Noon-style showdown? Has your organization instituted policies that restrict social media use during work hours? If you were the CEO or CIO, what would be your stance on social media use by employees during the workday?
Lots of angles and implications here. Comments and discussion welcome. And don’t forget to take our one-question TCP MicroSurvey.