The Peninsula employment law firm study of UK time-wasting in Facebook and other social networking sites, and its call for companies to ban employees from Facebook access during the work day, highlights the “all cost/no benefit” mindset behind many studies of social media. Not all law firms are so myopic, though.
To repeat what I said earlier, if companies have employees spending two hours a day on Facebook activities that are unrelated to their work, they have bigger problems than any social networking ban could solve.
But in this post I want to focus on the potential benefits for companies of having their employees engaged in social media, and particularly in networking sites.
The “Faceless Corporation” is a cliche, but there is a reason why cliches achieve their status: the first few times, at least, they communicated a truth in a compelling way.
By engaging in blogging, Robert Scoble helped pull back the curtain at Microsoft to reveal hard-working engineers trying to make the best products they could for their customers. At the time, Microsoft was seen as an anti-competitive monolith, personified only by Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.Channel 9 helped humanize Microsoft.
Creating Facebook groups and encouraging participation by individual employees, and having them engage customers in conversation, could for some companies help create customer loyalty that can survive a low-price competitor underselling you. If you’re engaged with them, maybe your customers would also give you ideas for improving your services to gain even more business.
There are lots of other ways businesses can use Facebook positively. I have a whole section of this blog devoted to the topic.
But Ethan Kaplan says it well: if you can’t find a way to take positive business advantage of a social networking site with 40 million active members that is growing by more than a million users a week, your company has a serious lack of marketing vision.