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Social Notworking

April 22, 2010

Last week I met up with a gentleman who is involved in a national organization dedicated to Christian business leaders. I was telling him about an idea some friends of mine have for developing a social media site that would connect corporate business professionals to an online, interactive faith community, as a way to spiritually encourage and support them in their jobs.

What a great idea, right?

“Don’t bother.” He said, without looking up from his coffee. “We’ve tried that and didn’t get too far.”

What? Give up? Just like that?

“Look,” he continued, “Executives and working professionals are way too busy to be poking around online. Plus, most of them are over age 35, and they are just not plugged in to social media. So forget it.”

This is a harsh pill for me to swallow, being both an executive and a social media-user. Not to mention that the whole point of my Shrinking the Camel blog is to reach out to these very people – working professionals and business leaders. Like my good friend (not really) Michael Hyatt, I want to have both a kick-ass executive job and build an online blogging empire!

But my new friend was right. In my two years of blogging, I have hardly ever gotten any comments on my posts from people who actually work in a corporate setting.

Most of my peers, my white-collar worker friends of a similar age cohort (forty-something) are not at all tuned in to this social media thing. When I ask them to join me in this exciting world of blogging and Twitter communities, they look at me as if I’ve just grown a third eye. “I’ll stick with the Wall Street Journal, thank you very much,” is what I see in the bubble forming over their heads.

Is this lack of online social connection simply a generational thing? Possibly. But I think there are actually several other reasons why the vast field of working professionals are not jumping on the blogging bandwagon.

1. They don’t have access to social media at work.

A few weeks ago I received an email from my company’s IT department stating that they were shutting down employee access to all social media sites. The reason, the email said, was security risk.
No more casual commenting on my favorite blogs in between meetings. No more check-ins on my weekly High Calling Blogs post. No more random tweets whenever the spirit moved. No more online community during the work day.

My company is not alone in blocking social media site access from the computer screens of the office worker-bees, because research reports are showing that a growing majority of employers are following suit. An October 2009 survey by Robert Half from organizations with 100 or more employees (called Whistle But Don’t Tweet At Work) revealed that 54 percent of them completely block employees from accessing social media sites at work and 90 percent block at least some social media sites.

According to a more recent survey conducted by British research firm Sophos, 72% of firms believe their employees’ activities on social networking sites could endanger their business’s security. 

Well. Until this security problem is solved, that could put a big damper on the growth of online business communities.

2. Using social media at work is distracting.

I confess that I like to spend a fair amount of time on Twitter and blogs – it is addictive, after all. But I also have a job – an executive position, where I am supposed to be responsible and speak with authority, and, like, you know, have a clue about what’s going on all the time. And during those roughly sixty hours a week, I should be focused on, well, my job. I need to pay attention. Checking in on my blog and Facebook account every ten minutes would not really be a good career move.

Last year I saw some research suggesting that allowing social networking during work actually improves productivity. According to Dr. Brent Coker from the Department of Management and Marketing at University of Melbourne in Australia, workers who engage in “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing” are more productive than those who don’t.

Sorry, Dr. Coker, but – are you freakin’ kidding me? The credibility of this productivity research went down the toilet for me upon the immediate realization that it came from Australia. Who works in Australia? Isn’t that the place where people go when they don’t want to work? And plus, since this was published, I have seen nothing to corroborate this far-fetched piece of “research.” I don’t buy it.

Back in the early-mid 2000’s, in that bygone era before we put the lid on corporate internet access, I saw far too many cases where our dear, trusted employees got caught red-handed spending the company’s precious time on the internet with fantasy football, shopping sprees, and porn. Then corporate would have to come down and put the big kibosh on their embarrassing habit, even severing ties with some.

That’s what our people are more likely to do with access to the internet at work, isn’ t it? Fritter time away on useless, self-indulgent, addictive pursuits. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Social Media is a Waste of Time

Let’s just get this out on the table for some air time. Blogging, Facebooking and Tweeting take up a huge amount of time. I mean, to be good at it, to stay connected and witty and relevant and generous with your online community, you’ve got to commit. And face it, unless social media is your livelihood, it’s time that could be spent doing something else, possibly more productive, like communicating more with real, live people. Or finishing that project your boss asked you to do. Or getting more work done around the house.

In spite of this, I am astounded by the amount of time people spend on Twitter, Facebook and Blogging. It’s as if, for some lucky souls, generating their social media presence comprises the majority of what they do with their time.

So, therefore it would appear that everyone who is filling up the chatter on social media sites during the work day don’t really have jobs. Or, I should say, they don’t have corporate jobs. The people I see and enjoy online fall into one of the following categories:

  • Writers and Publishers
  • Mommies
  • Self employed
  • Consultants
  • Regular non-working folks screwing off and killing time

Corporate professionals connecting to social media during work are nowhere to be found.

To prove my point, how many of you reading this right now work for a company with over 100 employees, and are plugged into internet access from your company’s computer?

I didn’t think so.

So, Who Cares About Workers Using Social Media?

Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging and tweeting, I’ve made some wonderful friends, and it has opened an entirely new world to me. I won’t quit any time soon.  But I get the distinct feeling that the rest of working corporate America doesn’t give a rat’s ass. This, in spite of the media hype that would have us believe that it is all changing.

Apparently there are a growing number of firms such as IBM, Toshiba, and Cerner Corporation that are becoming connected workplaces. They are using social media tools such as wikis, blogs, microblogs and corporate social networks to connect employees and foster mass collaboration.

But just don’t go traipsing down to your personal social media sites.

And why is any of this important? Well, if someone like me wants to create an awesome online work-faith community to connect and encourage real working professionals around their spiritual growth, then I’m pretty much locked out from the most logical access point – their work office.

People at work will not engage in an activity that is not condoned or allowed at their job, and this is where they spend the majority of their time.

This is the reality, so I should just forget about it.

Will it change? Who knows. But for now, I guess my friend is right.

Am I missing the boat? Am I too cynical?

What do you think?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 11:56 pm

    Most of my co-workers over the age of 35 do not engage in social media. They might sign up for Twitter, and then flee. The problem with this is that because they don’t engage in it, they think it doesn’t matter. All I can say is, ask Toyota, whose problems first went public with a single tweet on Twitter.

    I am totally the wrong demographic for social media. Totally wrong. Yet I blog, I edit an online journal, I tweet via two accounts, I post on Facebook, I’m on Linked In, and I have a YouTube account (although I’ve never posted a video).

    My company has a Facebook page, tweets, blogs and posts videos on YouTube. During some recent government hearings we were involved in, we livetweeted the event and had three Twitter streams accessible to employees via the intranet. More than 5,000 individual employees accessed those streams at one or more points during the day.

    Our industry is not electronics or computers or software or social media. We’re in agriculture.

    • April 23, 2010 12:12 pm

      Glynn, you are totally a corprorate social media animal!

      I wonder, though if you are in a unique position being in corporate communications – you are actaully responsible for keeping your company active on these social media sites, right? What about the guys in finance, or the sales office – do they have free and clear access to their own Facebook and Twitter sites, to do as they please? Or were those Twitter streams made available to them only during that time during the government hearings? Does your company have any kind of access limitations to employees on company computers?

      • April 23, 2010 12:41 pm

        The only thing the company blocks is access to personal email accounts, like aol, yahoo, gmail, etc. The reason is security and what viruses, trojans, etc. can come in through non-company email accounts. There are no restrictions on accessing Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace — except where email night happen.

  2. April 23, 2010 7:26 am

    I am of two minds on this one. I know folks can waste time at work with social media, yet everyone doesn’t. And some folks waste no more time on it than those who will just stand in the hall and gab about nothing for 10-20 minutes each time.

    My company will not touch any social media at this time. However for myself, Facebook and LinkedIn are relevant to my job in researching connections, and as a participant in mentor groups. Twitter is relevant in supplying immediate info on nonprofits, nptech, trends, etc. Certain blogs are useful during the work day also. However, I fit these in around my work. For instance, I check in to a blog or Twitter when a task is completed. Usually it’s a good break between tasks, and either an inspirational or learning one – so it energizes me. I also find useful information to pass on to others.

    I cannot guarantee every person would use social media at work in the same way… any more than we use conversation at work in helpful positive ways all the time. Technically, I only had access to LinkedIn, but I was able to work with Facebook for my needs using Google’s cache, and so far our system only blocks Twitter itself.

    There are a few folks in my age range on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter… more are on Facebook than any other. The sad thing is the contempt with which many in this age group characterize the interaction. Certainly there are elements worthy of contempt, but how one can rely on so scathing a judgment with so little actual experience I have no idea.

    And because the initial response is contempt, those people never learn how social media can be used (relying only on the word of others) and because they have the power to say yes or no, nothing moves forward positively in their use of social media. To me, the decision is not really informed unless you actually have experience (more than a week or two) using it.

    What I do find problematic is that these types of communication change rapidly, being ‘the thing’ one day and sliding in use and popularity the next. However, though these change, they do not go away — they evolve. So if we don’t learn how to act and respond in this world, I wonder when we will?

  3. April 23, 2010 12:17 pm

    Melissa – I think it’s funny that you found a way around the access block for Facebook! Great sleuthing skills there.

    You are probably right about the wasted time with chit-chat. But to me, the internet time just adds another layer of wasted time in addition to the chit-chat. We are social animals, after all!

    Your last point is probably the main thing that promoters of social media are saying – Companies better get on board sooner or later, because this is here to stay. Maybe not in the exact form as it is today,but in some manner.

    I like your idea of using social media as a “reward” upon completing a task. Maybe there is some kind of motivational incentive thing there that employers can use? Giving the higher-productivity people greater access to social media sites?

    Who knows. You have given some great points here.

  4. April 23, 2010 5:20 pm

    It is my assumption that most people working in corporate positions may have reasons for finding something to be worthwhile for them, or worthwhile for a business, than someone with a different line of employment. Even two people in a corporate position will have different reasons for finding something to be worthwhile.

    Actually, what really makes anything worthwhile? What makes one thing more important than another thing? Who is to say for us what is important or worthwhile?

    The answers to these questions make up how we think of ourself in relation to everything else.

    You might even fine a corporate person in total agreement with a self-employed mother on what is worthwhile.

    The reasons that people in the corporate world are not finding your blog, may be many and varied.

    • April 25, 2010 12:44 pm

      Yeah, maybe it’s because no one has ever heard of Shrinking the Camel to begin with. How about that for a starting point?

      And yes, we all pursue different values of “worthwhile” activities. Many don’t consider spiritual life as worthwhile. Also a problem.

  5. April 24, 2010 9:57 pm

    I am a social networking guy (blog, facebook, twitter) for our huge organization and I can’t tell you what a time waster it is.

    It’s overhyped with little results. Sure, you can say we aren’t doing it right, but for the most part people really don’t care

    David
    http://www.redletterbelievers.com

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