Social networking is expected to be more integrated into the business world, but how that will actually play out is yet to be determined. The questions of when and how will it work, and to who’s advantage are all questions that we will be debating in the coming year, with a good amount of experimentation to fuel development and interest around business-oriented social networking.
On the one hand, there are new ways in which businesses can use social networks for marketing, advertising, sharing news and updates about their products and services, manage a PR crisis, or communicate on a more direct level with clients and customers.
On another hand, businesses are finding themselves in a constant battle for their employees’ time, as workers spend much of their day and computer usage checking their Facebook friends’ profile updates. The ebbing and flowing of control that a business has over its employee’s social networking activity is a giant tar pit for businesses that want to use social networks for marketing and direct consumer communication, but want to limit access for employees.
Thirdly, there’s the ability for social networks to foster relationships on a business level, between companies or individuals. Whether you’re looking for a job or you’re looking for a new accountant, you can utilize social networks to gain research and recommendations around the best person for the job. Need to hob knob with a few influential people in your industry? Twitter is a never-ending cocktail party. The potential behind social networking could in fact revolutionize the way in which we build relationships and do our business with each other.
So where does that leave business owners and executives? One hot mess, but a potentially fun mess. We’re seeing a great deal of experimentation going on with the ways in which busineses can use social networks for their own purposes. The necessity to do so makes it more difficult to control employee behavior, especially as social networks become increasingly integrated with personal mobile devices or apps that are more likely to remain unblocked, such as email.
I often suggest that companies seek some way in which they can leverage their employees’ presence on social networks, making it a part of their overall culture. Best Buy has begun to do this with twelp force, where employees can use Twitter answer questions submitted by customers regarding product questions.
While this doesn’t directly aid in curbing an employee’s time spent on a social network versus their time spent finishing their other work, the very way in which we organize our day may be the next obstacle to adress here. Personal devices are becoming more integrated with each other, giving us greater access to our work and personal lives at nearly any point in the day. That suggests that businesses may need to adjust expectations around employee’s ability to set their own priorities, focusing more on the quality of work versus the amount of time spent in an office at one’s desk. Current technology could in fact support this type of shift, even increasing the efficiency of individual employees.
There is still a great deal of trust that would need to be allocated to each employee, with a higher level of responsibility assigned to employees as well. This could also affect the business-personal relationship regarding the use of social networks. Many employees will feel the need to maintain multiple accounts or modify their account privacy settings to restrict access to their information based on those in their network. As a result, several tools created for enterprise use or for individuals seeking additional privacy will begin to see more success this year.