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.

References:

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

Alexa (2010b). ninemsn.com.au 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.