Posted on September 16th, 2010 at 12:47 AM by Wan
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It’s long been recognized that word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising, and social networking is just an online extension of advertising.  Social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with friends and family.  Once banned from the business world, they are now being allowed or even embraced on many company networks. Some employees use social networking as a quick break from work. According to Shinder (2010, p.1), “Studies have shown that taking short breaks can make workers more productive, and hopping over to your Facebook page for five minutes to check friends’ activities can be a quick and efficient way to “get away” mentally, even if you need to stay physically in place”.

One great example of an organisation using Social Networks is IBM. The social network tool used is called “Beehive”. It look similar like a Facebook but slightly different.  With Beehive, IBM employees is able to express themselves in rich, personalize and customize ways so that their peers in the office could get an expressive image of them. Beehive users can create a profile, submit pictures, submit updates, submit comments, organize events and tag someone’s photos. The user profiles are dynamic that allows changing depending on a user’s activity in submitting content or giving comments. In addition, users can select which information to display at specific location on the page and limit the visibility of their photos and lists to their peers or external social communities. Beehive interface can be seen as in figure 1.  According to Ward (2010), “Over 30,000 people have opted-in, sharing over 40,000 photos in less than a year since Beehive issued its first honey. And it’s still being enhanced”.

Figure 1: Beehive Social Network Application

(Ward, 2010)

The employees in IBM use Beehive to share information among themselves such as collaborating in projects, personal interests, hobbies, projecting skills and experience based on resume and as a portal for knowledge-based centre such as conference presentations.

The benefits of using Beehive are:

  • Employees are willing to share more information inside the organisation instead of public sites because they were less concerned with the ramifications  of sharing process on personal information and opinions.
  • They can expand their market reach globally, widening IBM’s business contacts, create a communication with IBM clients and submit free advertisement.
  • IBM manage to bridge the digital divide and generation gaps among their employees, ranging from ordinary employees to managers and senior level employees.

Meanwhile, the possible pitfalls that could occur are:

  • Slump in productivity.  If every 50 employees in IBM organisation spent 30 minutes on social networking every day of a working week, that would total a cumulative productivity loss of 6,500 hours in one year (GFI, n.d.). Consequently, this could have a high impact on return on investment (ROI) upon measuring the employee’s salary based on each hour costs.
  • IBM could be held liable for failing to protect its employees from viewing illicit or offensive content material and commenting publicly and defaming IBM’s image. Thus, the damage to the IBM’s reputation could both be enormous.

Also, contrary to these findings, I had the opportunity to site visit two broadcasting stations in Australia last month. With reference to the video below, it seems they had spend millions and millions of dollars for their data centre investments, in order to provide rich services to their audiences including Enterprise systems. Most of their equipments are IT-based.  Its captivating to know broadcasters like Channel Nine and SBS, Australia are also using Social Networks. Both, have a RSS feeds, Podcasts and Blogs. Channel Nine is using Micro blogging tool like Twitter to disseminate their information to the community, whilst SBS is using their Facebook and Twitter to interact with their loyal audience.  According to Alexa (2010a,b), SBS website is currently worth $194,998 USD while Channel Nine website is worth $3.9 million USD!  Consequently, they really mean serious businesses as what can be seen on the video below (due to confidentiality, I am not allowed to insert their voice conversations in this video, instead I had replaced it with insightful music background).

Australian Broadcasters from Wan Harris on Vimeo.

When it comes to personal experience, I have used many social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare, LinkedIn and many others. For instant, uploading videos, I prefer using Vimeo instead of YouTube as it is less restrictive in submitting content contributions. Uploading video in Vimeo does not depend on time limit, unlike YouTube having a maximum of 10 minutes only. Also, there’s no restriction in adding songs into your video in Vimeo. Unlike YouTube, you’re not allowed to submit video that has a song which does not own by you; thus, breaching the copyright laws and intellectual property rights. YouTube seems to have a built-in software analyzer that scans your video upload before it is being approved. Those who breaches these policies will have their video being removed instantly without prior notice.

Of all the social network sites, I recommend Facebook first and foremost for those serious about group collaboration. Compared to MySpace, Facebook is more of a site for grown-ups; MySpace is more suited for teenagers and preteens. A Facebook group includes the following collaborative features such as recent news, discussion board, uploaded photos and videos, posted web pages and The Wall which is a kind of chat board.  In addition, your group can be Open (public), Closed (description if public, but members have to be approved), or Secret (membership by invitation only).  Unfortunately, Facebook groups do not offer file uploading or sharing.

I am one of those users of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is specifically targeted to people who are going to build business relationships with peers and potential clients.  It can also be used to actively promote ourselves and our businesses. This is effective for those who are self-employed such as freelance consultants, writers and trainers.  Although LinkedIn is useful in building and enhancing my personal branding, I found that there’s a lot of limitation for being a basic subscriber.  There’s no profile organizer, can’t reach networks over 75 millions, no reference searches, no priority in customer service and no expanded network profile views.  Nevertheless, LinkedIn seems useful for us to get notice by others.

In brief, Social Networks have many advantages as it is easy to use, allows to build relationships online and easy communication be it for personal use or office work. Furthermore, personal brands rule on Social Networks.


Alexa (2010a). SBS.COM.AU site info. Retrieved September 15, 2010.

Alexa (2010b). site info. Retrieved September 15, 2010.

DiMicco, J., Millen, D. R., Geyer, W., Dugan, C., Brownholtz, B., Muller, M. (2008). Motivations for Social Networking at Work. Retrieved September 15, 2010.

GFI (n.d.). Social Networking at Work: Thanks, But No Thanks? Retrieved September 15, 2010.

LinkedIn corporation (2010). Compare Account Types. Retrieved September 15, 2010.

Shinder, D. L. (2010). 10 ways to use social networking tools to promote your business. Retrieved September 15, 2010.

Ward, T. (2010). Beehive builds buzz at IBM. Retrieved September 15, 2010.


  • Kelly says:

    Nice post , Wan. I agree with you that IBM is one of major organizations in the world which is using social networking sites to create an online community and to share their knowledge with others. I think one of key things that social netowrks have been implemented so successfully in IBM are because the employees are willing to share and the senior managers are understanding to the value of social networks.

    • Wan says:

      Yes, you’re definitely right on, Kelly. I have been reading the book of Wikinomics in Chapter 6 – The New Alexandrians. What intrigues me with the book content is that Tapscott and Williams (2006, p.154) mentioned that “in today’s networked economy, proprietary knowledge creates a vacuum. Companies that don’t share are finding themselves ever more isolated – bypassed by the networks that are sharing, adapting and updating knowledge to create value”. In other words, to succeed in an organisation, one has to collaborate, publicise, peer review and exchange information precompetitively.

      But when it come to knowledge sharing, it’s difficult to ask colleagues and peers to ask for it. This might be due to their inability to see the intangible benefits as they believed in the concept of “seeing is believing” approach. Once they see it, then only they would act upon it. The question is, how soon would we expect this absurd mind be changed for the whole organisations?

  • NIck says:

    Very comprehensive overview of some of the social mediums that are within the work place. Your point on employee’s \getting away\ I feel is loosely tied to social tools because how healthy are social networking tools for us mentally. Other activities might be preferred in organisations that promote face-to-face activities. I have the problem when introducing social networking into the office. What I am finding is that people prefer to go for lunch or after work drinks, then sit on there computer. How would you suggest I promote social networks in a org culture like this?
    Also, I find it interesting that you like Vimeo over youtube. It is growing in popularity but still way behind youtube. If it grows further, do you think they will start to put limitation on this platfrom? like video time, etc?

    • Wan says:

      Interesting experience, Nick. In the past, I too had difficulty in introducing social networking tool for my organisation. A decade ago, I decided to proceed with my so-called baby project in using Microsoft Sharepoint. It was a captivating and intimidating experiences for myself. To make matter worst, I even do not have a full support from my previous ex-boss. He was sarcastic and skeptical with my project initiation as he came from a Gen-X background. His constant sarcasm believes that Gen-Y communities are lacking of innovations and good work ethic. I proved him wrong!

      I used whatever remaining hardwares and softwares (even using a pirated applications at first due to zero budget) I could get and configured it myself. When it was ready to be used, I invited all my colleagues and peers to attend half an hour FREE seminar with the help from training department (CFBD – Centre for Broadcasting Development). Of course, most of them thought it’s a waste of time. There’s also a bit of scarification need to be made by forging out my own pocket money to prepare some light meals and coffee drinks for the audiences in order to attract their attention. Hence, I made it like an informal session. At first, they were unwilling to share ideas as most of us would have thought it could impact on their future job prospects. I kept putting more online services using blogs, wikis, podcast and many others on Sharepoint. I gave away everything I know. I pushed what I’ve learned into the system. I helped my colleagues by using the cloud to solve their problems and collaborate between departments and remote branches. Guess what, after several months, they started to enjoy it and manage to elicit its benefits.

      Now, it’s like a viral network where every departments, sections, units are making use of Microsoft Sharepoint and not to waste any single second of it. My director soon had realised the potential Gov 2.0 benefits and support me all the way long. It boosted my confidence further as I now have been allocated IT budgets in spending the infrastructure that I have always dream of. Even, the permanent secretary and other top officials was impressed with what I had done on their official tour visit and soon some other government officials and vocational schools came to my organisation to learn our new way of working environment. The only problem now is how to maintain Sharepoint in order to ensure its reliability with less downtime for all employees. One solution would be pushing it to the cloud. But again, how safe and secure is the cloud?

      With regards to your usage on Vimeo question, it’s hard to predict the future Nick. We saw what had happen to Ning, initially it was free and now it starts charging the community. It all depends on Vimeo’s organisation. But I assume, if Vimeo wants to be at the forefront they need to learn from their major competitors like YouTube.

      • Nicke says:

        Thank you for sharing your experience with me. It was a pleasure to read about the struggle and success that you have experienced during your time introducing Sharepoint. Its is interesting you mention that the issue now is to maintain sharepotin in order to ensure its reliability. Has there been some issues with employee engagement? Understandably as an IT profession you need to ensure they motivation to use such system is kept high. But I wonder if Sharepoint is the problem. I see some limitation with sharepoint and as new tools are coming into play (Social Office) there are feature that are allow more engagement with employees. Sharepoint is popular but its limitations to offer a community of social interaction is evident.

        • Wan says:

          Some of the issues that I remembered in the past is where:
          - Employees accidentally uploaded their personal data such as online forms, etc. Since they do not have the full privilege/authentication to amend, they have to contact IT administrator to request for assistance.
          - Most employees often forget their password access, although a single sign-on concept has already been implemented. They tend to take it for granted, knowing that it’s easy to get assistance from IT admin to reset their password. Just imagine if out of 1450 staffs in my organisation, 5% of the community had forgotten their password. It’s really a pain in the neck! Should there be a government policy where IT admin should charge a minimum fee of $10-$20 to reset their passwords?

          In my opinion, Sharepoint is just another tool to help the employees to collaborate and share ideas. There are many tools out there available. Recently, I just know there is also other free Enterprise 2.0 tools such as Alfresco. Most Gen-Y community do pickup very fast in learning them. I remembered some of my colleagues are more champion than me, although I am the one who had introduced Sharepoint to them in the first place. Same goes with Micro blogging – some prefer Twitter, others might prefer Yammer, Socialcast or

          The main point – it doesn’t matter what tool you offer them, it’s how you invite them, make use of it and harness the collective intelligence among the community. Wouldn’t you agree?

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