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Social media-in-the-workplace

  1. 1. SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE WORKPLACE:<br />Review of Related Studies and Literature<br />“We shape our tools, and afterwards, our tools shape us.”<br />-Marshall McLuhan, 1911-1980<br />Introduction<br />In less than nine months, Facebook reached 100 million users, and now, after 6 years, the social networking site which was “created in the dormitories” in Harvard, already has 500 million users (Wortham, 2010). In fact, if it were a country, it will be the eighth most populous in the world (Wilson, 2010). <br />As of 2009, ten million registered users have been ‘tweeting’ in 140 characters or less, through Twitter, a microblog launched in 2006. LinkedIn, a professional networking site, on the other hand, already has 36 million users after being founded in 2003 (Wilson, 2010). <br />Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are just 3 of the almost 900 internet applications and web sites which may be utilized for social networking (Wilson, 2010). Many other Internet applications allow users to communicate to a large number or people in real time. This magnifies the inevitability of social media in the people’s lives. <br />Forrester Research revealed that 60% percent of adults in the US update their profile on social networking sites, 70 % read blogs, tweets and watch videos online. In terms of posting, one-third of adults are posting either on their Facebook or Twitter account (Galagan, p. 29, 2010). <br />In the UK, it is predicted that by 2013, half of the Internet users will be visiting social networks at least once a month; In the UK offices, workers are predicted to be spending at least 30 minutes a day at the social networking sites (Wilson, p. 55, 2010). <br />Millions of people are online – chatting, interacting with new and old friends, sharing files, updating photo albums, blogging about their bad experiences about a brand, networking, finding business partners, and perhaps just spending time in the virtual world. Among these millions of netizens are those who belong to the modern workforce. Galagan (2010) stressed, “Whether we like it or not, whether we use it or not, social media is changing the way we work” (p. 29). <br />The 21st Century Workforce<br />The dynamism in the 21st century workplace can be understood better by analyzing what makes up the modern workplace – who the members of the workforce are and what kind of working environment can make them maximize their productivity. Today’s workforce is basically shaped by the ever-changing technological innovations (Asunda, p. 38, 2010). <br />A key to understanding the workplace is to acquaint oneself of the traits of the modern workforce. A generational expert, Alsop, identifies the four generations, in which one of these shall dominate the US workforce in the near future. The four generations [see figure 1], according to Alsop, have different views of life and work (2010).<br />Altes (2009) said that as of 2009, there are already 73.5 Millennials in the United States, 49.1 million Generation Xers, and 76.7 million Baby Boomers (para. 2). <br />A knowledge of the traits of the workforce will justify every measure and policy in the workplace. Based on his research and interviews, Alsop (2010) characterizes the Millennial generation as being cybercitizens, among others. As cybercitizens, they are impatient and branded as the master multitaskers who want things “now” with the cell phone and BlackBerry in their hands, and laptops in front of them. They are the members of the workforce who can do their jobs well even when they’re “plugged in to iPod,” a trait which most CEOs sometimes do not understand. Knowing the traits of the Millennial might be a key to having a productive workforce. After all, it is predicted that at the end of 2011, 60 % of employees shall belong to the Millennial generation, and by 2014, more than a third of the US workforce will be the Millennials (Alsop 2010). <br />Figure 1<br />The Four Generations<br />The GenerationTime SpanTraitsTraditionalist1925-1945Patriotic, dependable, respectful of authority, conservative, solid work ethicBaby Boomer1946-1964Workaholic, idealistic, competitive, loyal, materialistic, personal fulfillmentGen Xer1965-1979Self-reliant, adaptable, cynical, distrustful of authority, entrepreneurial, technology savvyMillenials1980-2001Cybercitizens, entitled, optimistic, civic minded, close parental ties, work-life balance, impatient, team-oriented<br />Source: Alsop. R. (2010) . OMG! How the millennial generation is shaking up the workforce [Ppt. presentation].<br />Managing the Millennials, according to Alsop, includes a give-and-take relationship: the company giving what it takes for the Millennials to work at their best, which includes working with the social media, and the Millennials giving back to the company by meeting its expectations. Alsop specifically reiterated that company should not ban cell phone and social media at work because these are like “extensions” to the Millennials, and not simply a tool (2010). <br />The Social Media as Extension of the Modern Workforce<br />Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian media guru who popularized the dictum “The medium is the message,” emphasized in his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Men, that media are “extensions of men” (Rogers, 2000). As extensions of themselves, media can actually enhance the way people live. <br />In the modern workplace’s context, the media, as the Millennials know them, are primarily called the social media. For many workers, these social media platforms are tools to interact, to connect and to learn new things from different people in the global village. For the Millennials in the workplace, however, social media are more powerful than how everyone else in the other generations perceives them to be. More interestingly, a study by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4CP) found out that workers who use social media in their personal lives are most likely to ‘learn truly useful things,’ ‘learn more in less time,’ ‘get better work done,’ and ‘get more work done’ with social media tools (Patel, p. 60, 2010). <br />The Place of Web. 2.0 Technologies in the Corporate World<br />The time has come when “corporate America meets the MySpace world” (Frauenheim, para. 2, 2007). For some companies, the use of social media may be a blessing; for the critics, however, it is simply a time-waster. Different studies yield different results on whether or not social media is a curse or a blessing in the business world. An article on The Economist, for instance, said that various studies reveal that Twitter and Facebook usage while at work are real threat to the “corporate wealth” (“Yammering away,” 2010). <br />Despite these, a number of companies also see the value of the social media in allowing them to do what seemed to be impossible before the birth of these media platforms. <br />The Value of Social Media in the Workplace<br />In the social media world, people create their profiles, and connect themselves with different people across different parts of the globe. With the features and interfaces available, the users may share, send or receive files, and communicate in real time. <br />Experts reveal that social media may be utilized in the workplace in various ways:<br />To enhance learning and knowledge sharing (Galagan, 2010; “Social media,” 2009). Employees may share their files, or create webcast which the new hires may utilize to guide them in carrying out their duties. This also saves time for the Human Resources department. Everything a new hire needs to learn and be reminded of may be contained in a webcast which the employee may access at his or her convenient time when necessary. Also, this way, social media tools provide more informal learning opportunities which do not intimidate new hires, but make them learn in their own pace and even in their own time. <br />To find employees fit for vacant positions (“Yammering away,” 2010; Annya, 2010; <br />Galagan, 2010; “Social media,” 2009; Salopek, 2010). This is not simply about recruiting, but finding the best person that fits in the position, which is much more complicated than simply filling up vacant posts. A 2008 report by an outplacement consulting firm revealed that companies would no longer rely on newspaper classified advertisements to look for qualified applicants to fill in vacant positions. Social networking sites, e.g. LinkedIn, which links professionals in one site, may be used to network and search for talents. <br />Aside from LinkedIn, Twitter is also now being utilized by more than fifty companies in the US, according to Job-Hunt, an employment portal, to recruit new employees. Among the companies using the Twittersphere to recruit are Ernst & Young at @Ernst_and_Young, Hershey Company at @HersheyCompany, and the US Department of State which is found at @DOScareers (Salopek, 2010). <br />Social media tools may actually assist in avoiding ‘talent shortages’ because it allows the employers to search for talents beyond geographic borders. According to an article published by the American Society for Training & Development, a survey by Manpower revealed that the top 5 positions which employers find hard to fill in with qualified applicants are skilled manual trade, sales, technician, engineering and executive positions. The said survey included 39, 000 employers across 33 countries. It was also found out that employers from Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand (“Taking inventory of talent,” 2009). <br />To communicate in different places, but in real time (Salopek, 2010; Asunda, 2010). One obvious value of social media is to save time and defy distance. For instance, authors from different countries but in the same networking site and with the same interests, could collaborate easily to come up with projects, or to work on a book publication, or research. This can be done thru Skype which does not only allow real time audio and video communication, but also allows sharing of screen for better understanding (Salopek, 2010). <br />To position a brand in the market (“Social media,” 2009; Salopek, 2010). A recruitment marketing consultant from the Department of State, Rachel Friedland, said that the DOS has been using Twitter not only for recruitment of new employees but also for branding, or “to build employer brand awareness” (Salopek, 2010).<br /><ul><li>To serve as “business enablers” (Johnson, 2009; Wilson, 2009; Asunda, 2010). Social media tools allow people to stay connected and maintain professional relationship with their business partners.
  2. 2. To do market research by engaging with ‘social media intelligence’ (Wilson, 2009). A micro-blogging site like Twitter can actually be a source of relevant and useful insights which may be used by the company to “listen to conversations,” know the trends, and even to find out the weaknesses of their competitors through the claims of the netizens. By knowing how customers online feel and think about the brand, the company may pick up actionable insights and use them as bases for improvement, and for engaging customers into conversations about their brand (Wilson, 2009).
  3. 3. To get instantaneous feedback from peers (Galagan, 2010). Social tools can enable a company to get and give instantaneous feedback from their peers. Gone are the days when each of the staff needs to wait for the end of the year to find out any feedback from each other. Galagan (2010) added that this instantaneous feedback may be anonymous but conversational in nature, so the staff would not really mind getting and giving feedback.
  4. 4. To enhance corporate networking (“Social media,” 2009). Social media makes it easy to find like-minded people who have the same interests. Through this, sharing of ‘best practices’ may help them enhance their current practices. A study conducted in 2009 by ERC, an organization dedicated to HR and workplace practices, revealed that LinkedIn is the most commonly used social media tool by people in the workplace. The survey was participated in by 52 organizations in the US, and 43% of the respondents said they use LinkedIn for corporate networking and relationship building. Another survey conducted by AIIM in February 2010 has given the same result [see figure 2], with LinkedIn as the “king in terms of the preferred social network for business purposes” (“More using social media,” p. 8, 2010). </li></ul> <br /> Figure 2:<br /><ul><li>Use of Social Networking Tools for Business Purposes
  5. 5. 1609725212090
  6. 6. Source: More using social media at work (2010). Information Management
  7. 7. To enhance internal communication (“Social media,” 2009, “Yammering away,” 2010). Social media may also “break down internal barriers in the corporate world” (“Yammering away,” 2010). For instance, an Amazon-owned online retailer, Zappos, does encourage its employees to utilize Twitter to share information. The use of social media in the company shall acquaint all employees of each other, especially in large companies, where most employees don’t get an opportunity to mingle with those from other departments. Also, the use of Twitter or any other social media platform may enhance the company’s image outside the workplace. The customers would have a reason to believe that even the staff with key positions, are humans, too, when they follow what these people have to say.
  8. 8. To build relationship with customers (Savage, 2010; Altes, 2009; Asunda, 2010). Setting up a Twitter account, which according to Gillette (2010) is the most “humanizing” platform, and reaching out to the customers can deliver good results to the company. Savage (2010) said, “Being accessible on social media sites helps your clients and customers feel connected to your company” (para. 3). Also, Levine (2010) emphasized in his book titled Broken Windows, Broken Business that poor customer service is the easiest way to ruin any business. With the aid of social media, this concern may be addressed on a timely manner. It must also be noted that a brand is “defined” by how the customers perceive it to be. The lack of direct interaction between the brand and the customers can actually break a brand. It is necessary for any company to establish, maintain and build lasting relationships with the customers (Altes, 2009).</li></ul>Why the CEOs are Skeptic of Social Media in the Workplace<br />If there is much hype about the benefits of using social media, the “dangers” involved are also making CEOs skeptic of giving the workers freedom to utilize social media in the workplace. The fact that employees and employers have different views on how time should be utilized online (Nancherla, 2009), this would necessarily create a clash that could lead to different measures regarding the use of social media in the workplace, which may not at all be favourable for the Millennials or even the Baby Boomers, who are also starting to embrace social media. <br />Nancherla (2010) explained that theoretically, both the employees and employers agree that social media utilization also poses some dangers to the company; however, in practice, the employees still want to have freedom in using social media tools as they find pleasing. <br />In a study conducted by Deloitte titled Social Networking and Reputational Risk at the Workplace, seventy-four percent of the employees surveyed are aware that social media sites can easily damage a brand’s reputation. Forty-nine percent of them claim that they would not alter their usage behavior of social media tools despite company guidelines on using such tools. Moreover, they claim that how they behave online would not really change, despite the fact that their bosses might be monitoring their profiles (Nancherla, 2010). In fact, 37% of employees surveyed claim that they rarely or never consider what their boss would think before they post on their social networking sites. <br />Figure 3:<br />Employees Consideration before Posting to Social Networking Sites<br />1495425160020<br />Source: Nacherla, A (2009). Social networking net worth. American Society for Training & Development. <br />For instance, a co-owner of Beartooth Mapping, Inc., provider of mapping products that operates under the name MyTopo, discovered the “bad behavior” of her staff when she ‘stumbled’ upon the staff’s MySpace profile. In one post, the staff said that she’s having lunch for two hours since her boss was not in the office. Seeing this made Paige Darden, the co-owner, to realize there must be a problem in the office since “bad employee behavior is no longer confined to cubicle walls” (Needleman, para. 4, 2010). <br />Incidents like this imply that a strict measure might be necessary to avoid more ‘bad behaviour’ extended to the social media. <br />However, experts also suggest that a strict measure on the utilization of social media at the workplace may not be the solution to the different views between employers and employees regarding how employees should be spent online. <br />Despite these, a study by indicated that CEOs from top US companies are skeptic of social media use in the workplace.’s study found out that only most of the 2009 Fortune Top CEOs do not have any profile in social media platforms, like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. In fact, only two CEOs from the list in Fortune have Facebook account (“CEOs cautious,” 2010). <br />The reasons most of these CEOs are skeptic are also explained by Information Technology experts. A plethora of survey and studies and articles about social media utilization in the <br />workplace reveals that a number of “dangers” await a company that totally embraces social media use. These minuses include the following: <br />Danger of leaks in confidential information (Silnicki, 2007). Employees who tweet about company information, or employees who openly discuss in forums information related to the company may take away its company’s credibility through revelation of confidential information. If employees think that there is privacy in the cyberspace, then they must think again. Privacy in the social web is almost zero (Notess, 2009). Google knows what people search. Google knows almost all activities netizens engage in. Notess (2009) listed down all the possible activities that Google may track:<br />Figure 4:<br />Activities/Information that Google Knows about the User<br /><ul><li>Google can track the following activities All pages visited, if one uses the Google toolbar and have enabled PageRank All email sent and received through Gmail One’s schedule, Google calendar is being used The YouTube Videos watched Financial details for those who use Google Finance, Google Checkout, Google Adsense and Google AdWords Medical records if entered into Google Health Files on one’s computer, using Google Desktop Personal interests from iGoogle, Google Alerts, and Google Reader Books looked at on Google BooksOne’s address from Google PhonebookWhat one’s home looks like from Google Maps StreetviewOne’s current location, for those using Google Latitude</li></ul>Source: Notess, G (2009). Privacy in the age of social web. Online. Jul/Aug2009, Vol. 33 Issue 4, p41-43, 3p<br />For individuals who do not wish to be tracked may opt not to use Google tool bar, or not use Google service at all; however, data which they would get could be very limited. <br />The company’s computer system is at risk of infection because of malware propagated by social networks (Notess, 2009; Leggatt, 2010). A survey by Panda Security revealed that “small businesses that allow employees to use social networks at work are putting themselves at risk of infecting their systems and, worse still, financial loss” (Leggatt, para. 1, 2010). Panda Security discloses that 71% of small and medium-based companies suffered from malware infections coming from Facebook; 41% was infected also with Malware virus through the use of YouTube; and 51% of them admitted to have data compromised through Twitter (Leggatt, 2010). <br />Less productivity among the employees (“Yammering away,” 2010; Silnicki, 2007). Many HR experts argue that a social media utilization in the cubicle leads to productivity losses. For example, an IT company, Morse, released a research result saying that the “personal use of social networks during the working day was costing the British economy almost £1.4 billion ($2.3 billion) a year in lost productivity” (“Yammering away,” para. 1, 2010). The same article also said the Nucleus Research, an American company, disclosed that banning Facebook at work could lead to 1.5% improvement in the employees’ productivity (“Yammering away,” 2010).<br />Profiles at times present the employee in unprofessional manner (Frauenheim, 2007). Some employers want to maintain business-like image of the employees. This, however, may not be true all the time for social networking sites. Some sites have been reported to contain unprofessional content. For example, some profiles in MySpace and Facebook appear unprofessional in terms of content and photos, sometimes even showing the person drinking alcohol or enjoying ‘unprofessional’ activities (Frauenheim, 2007). This is among the reasons employers ban access to social networking sites in the workplace. <br />Access to non-work related and inappropriate materials online (Silnicki, 2010). In the city of Edmonton, reports said that a few workers have been under investigation for “accessing materials such as porn, gambling, extreme violence and hate websites from their office computers” (Silnicki, para. 1, 2010). Visiting unrelated sites is not new in the city. In fact, reports revealed that 164 city workers spend at least 17 hours at work visiting non-job related sites (para. 1). <br />What Employers Can Do<br />Alsop (2010) reiterates that attracting and retaining the Millenials who are attracted to work in a tech-savvy environment is a wise strategy since they will represent 36% of the US labor force in less than five years (para. 4). In order to do so, a balance between the positive and negative impact of social media must be in order.<br />Wilson (2009) gave some tips on how to draft corporate policy on social media usage in the workplace. These include: (a) Banning sites or functionality if needed, to avoid information leakage and improper usage; (b) Educating the employees or the users, particularly on why business and personal passwords must be different; (c) Keeping information up-to-date, and deleting unnecessary information; (d) Opening up but keeping control, especially in social networks like Facebook, where one’s profile could just be ‘cut-down’ to whichever is necessary. This also entails avoiding ‘befriending’ anyone in the cyberspace; (e) Protecting one’s identity by responsible setting up of ‘privacy setting’ to avoid compromising business or work-related details; and (f) Staying informed of the details employees post on their sites which might affect the company’s reputation(p. 56). <br />To do all of these, an additional IT staff may be necessary, only to monitor the social media activities of the employees. This entails extra cost for the company, but in the end, could yield more positive results than having no ‘protection’ against possible negative impact of social media utilization in the workplace.<br />Why Total Ban on Social Media Usage is not Advisable<br />A new research published by the University of Ontario in Canada revealed that social media fulfill certain needs of the users. These needs include pastime, affection, fashion, sharing of problems, sociability and social information. The study uses factor analysis of gratifications which were all obtained from Facebook, a social networking site. The method used was survey and interviews with the respondents (Quan-Haase & Young, 2010). <br />Alsop also emphasized that the Millenials are the kind of workers who are not afraid to hop from one job to another, if their needs are not fulfilled, since they see life as a balance between work and socialization (Alsop, 2010). <br />Conclusion<br />The use of social media has positive and negative implications. Not a single company may have an absolute stand on whether it should be allowed or be banned in the workplace. What is necessary, based on the research findings, is to strike a balance between protecting the company’s image and providing the ‘socialization’ needs of the employees. <br />These social media tools are primarily created by man, by men in America, and now, it is the American companies which find difficulty deciding whether or not access to social media platforms must be in the corporate policy. Apparently, the social media created by men have started to shape the community, not sparing the workplace. <br />Understanding that social media are more like ‘extensions’ of the employees, may give corporate bosses an idea that total ban may not be the answer. After all, Graham Cluley said, “Denying staff access to social networking sites will only drive them to find a way round the ban” (qtd. in Wilson, 2009). Ban may not be the answer; individual responsibility and corporate education may be. Social networking does have advantages which no one can deny. Excessive and irresponsible use is the only culprit. The measures must address irresponsibility and not usage of social media tools. <br />The studies and literature reviewed reveal that most studies on the use of social media in the workplace were undertaken using mainly survey and interviews. The surveys, however, revealed a pattern on the social media usage of the employees, and how employers perceive social networking as a personally driven activity. <br />This proposed research shall be different from the literature and studies reviewed because this is aimed at looking at the differences in the points of view between military and non-military respondents. Most studies provided no data on how military men perceive social networking in the workplace, and this is what this proposed study will reveal to contribute to the body of knowledge already published in various journals. <br />REFERENCES<br />Alsop, R. (2010). A tweet too far? Workforce Management. (89) 9, p. 50. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Alsop, R. (2010). OMG! How the Millennial generation is shaking up the workforce. [web cast]. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Altes, K (2009). Social media: young professionals effect change in the workplace. web site. 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Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Leggatt, H. (2010). Social media use in workplace leading to financial losses. BizReport. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />More using social media at work (2010). Up Front. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from<br />Nancherla A (2009). Social media: Young professionals effect change in the workplace. [web site] Retrieved November 20, 2010, from<br />Patel , L. (2010). The Rise of Social Media. T + D. pp. 60-61. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from <br /><br />Quan-Haase, A. & Young, A. (2010). Uses and Gratifications of Social Media: A Comparison of Facebook and Instant Messaging. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. (30) 5 pp.350-361. Retrieved 21 November 2010, from<br />Needleman, S. (2010). Facebook, Twitter Updates Spell Trouble in Small Workplace. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 November from<br />Notess, G. (2009). Privacy in the Age of the Social Web. Online (33) 4. P. 41-43. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Rogers, E (2000). The Extensions of Men: The Correspondence of Marshall McLuhan and Edward T. Hall. Mass Communication and Society (3) 1, pp. 117-135. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Salopek, J (2010). The 2020 Workplace. Workforce Management (89) 6 pp. 36-40. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from <br /><br />Savage, R (2010). The good, the bad, and the ugly of workplace social media use. TechJournal South. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Silnicki, G. (2007). Caught in the web. Canadian Business (80) 13, p. 62. Retrieved 20 November from<br />Social Media In the Workplace (2009). ERC Survey Briefing 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Survey: E-mail Violators May Get the Boot (2007). The Information Management Journal, p. 22. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />Wilson, J. (2009). Social networking: the business case. The IET. Retrieved November 20, 2010, from<br />Wortham, J. (2010). Facebook Says Membership Has Reached 500 Million. New York Times, p. 8. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br /> Yammering away at the office (2010) Economist. (394) 8667, pp. 14-17. Retrieved 20 November 2010 from<br />