Coming up the mountain in Jiangxi province on Chinese New Year's day to witness the first prayers of the year of the dragon, hearing the firecrackers getting louder and louder, until reaching a mound of exploding firecrackers forming a cube 50ft x 50ft x 30ft, with people continually replenishing the stock is something, I'll never forget. With a happy memory of my time in China, and wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous year of the snake. enjoy the video below.
Today’s Water Cooler: Social Media in the Work Place
Chime, pop-up, new email, take a look, back to work, repeat, distractions are all around us in the office, and when addressing the macro picture, they may add up to a quarter of our work day lost. Differentiating managers and companies though, is their reactions in efforts of curbing distractions. The simple answer is to block, and prevent them in the first place, however this oversimplified approach has been met with hostility and the blow-back may be worse for the company overall. Addressing workplace productivity and culture requires a personalized policy that reflects the end goals of the work environment, and with the right strategy, these annoyances can even become tools for success.
Personal affairs in the office, first off, are nothing new. Personal phone calls except for emergencies, were almost always forbidden in the workplace, and this saw little blow-back, so one could easily argue that blocking social media is no different. In New York even a judge’s ruling, which reinstated a worker who was let go for excessive surfing of the web, claimed, "The Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone". The judge went on to bridge the gap stating, "city agencies permit workers to use a telephone for personal calls, so long as this does not interfere with their overall work performance,". So if the internet is here, and accepted then what has changed?
Social media now connects people instantaneously with each other and the world, enables us to shop at our finger tips, and more importantly has become an extension of ourselves. Curbing this “extension” is like asking someone to stop eating or breathing. It has almost become a natural habit and denied access can create anxiety, something that in the work environment leads to lower morale. From here, it’s all downhill, lower morale may cause contempt and disloyalty, which ultimately may be just cause for attrition. Looking objectively, the solution must contain one vital component, account for the inevitability that social media is now an accepted part of our environment. From this point, we can manage the situation, and choose how to address it. We can control it, with a well-defined company policy, like a lunch break. The other option is to place the emphasis on the end result, which after all is why this employee is there in the first place.
ROWE, an acronym for “Results Only Work Environment”, takes the focus off of the hours worked and places in on the results produced. As a disclaimer, no one policy will work across the board for every business. However, ROWE strategy, the brainchild of Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, has seen success since it was originally proposed at Best Buy, and lead to the creation of a consulting group called CultureRx. This focus on results, also has the added opportunity cost, of not having to police workers on how they spend their time in the office.
While stigmatized for its loss in productivity and ROWE may be one solution, integration and exploitation may be even more viable. Marketers are focusing in on social media, with 83% claiming it is important to their business (However down from 90% in 2011). Increased traffic and exposure, being the top two benefits of social media stated across the board, yet the efficacy still remains in question. Many today debate that the ROI is justified, with 60% of the marketers in the Social Media Examiner 2012 survey, reported that they saw no increase in sales. To reiterate, more than 8 in 10 believe social media to be important while 6 in 10 are not seeing increased sales from their efforts.
This is not to say that social media is without benefits. Nearly half of marketers that on average spent at least 11 hours or more on social media saw a reduction in marketing cost, and this went up to 57% for small business owners. Exposure and traffic increases were seen across the board with managers spending at least 6 hours a week on social media, this includes key word and other index searches. In addition, companies began to see a following developing within a year of implementing a steady social media campaign. While several programs dominate the social media sphere, their usage trends differ on several factors.
Smaller businesses and the self-employed tended to use Linkedin, while larger businesses were more likely to use YouTube and less likely to use blogs. The big five social media outlets for 2012 were in order of usage, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogs, and YouTube. Further, another growing trend is outsourcing social media implementation, with the top three areas being design and development, analytics, and content creation, which doubled from 2010 to 2011 (14% to 28%) and saw a slight increase to 30% in 2012. Social media, no doubt, has made its mark on the ambient environment, and it has become quasi obligatory to have a presence. Ironically, if you don’t exist in the digital world, people today will doubt your legitimacy in the real world.
Social media is organic, that which differentiated it from the phone, it has become an extension of us, and this is the point which I feel needs to be addressed in more light, no pun intended. The microscope has been placed on social media by managers and marketers alike, each looking to capitalize on its value while curbing its threat. However to be organic, it must work in the ambient environment. Employees are using social media regardless of their work, and if facilitated correctly can be an incredible tool, which some companies are catching on to. The stigma might not have gone away, but the golden present opportunity is no doubt overshadowing social media in the workplace.
Just as the sun facilitates crops to grow, companies need to facilitate social media to blossom. If companies can encourage their employees to whole heartily and sincerely embrace social media campaigns the results will be incredible opportunities to share ideas and connect the companies with the world from the inside (via their employees as opposed to centralized advertisements). The challenge today which I feel must be stressed is how to balance facilitation and encouragement while retaining the organic nature of social media. Companies today that stand out from the crowd are those who capitalize on the public’s input, uploads, and comments, and while social media's importance is widely accepted, it is those who capture its organic nature, are those that see its true benefit.