That IS the question for many of us, both employers and employees. And the answer is not as simple as it may appear to be.
Can time be wasted, hours of unproductive time spent posting mundane (What are you doing right now, what are you eating, where are you sitting, ad nauseam?) notes on any of these online programs? That answer is easy – YES!
…not to mention the possibility of sharing confidential information, posting inappropriate content or leaving something out in cyberspace where you have, at best, limited control over who reads it. Oh, I know there are privacy settings and related controls to reduce this possibility, but my rule of thumb has always been to assume that anyone may bump into your digital musings (your mother, your boss, etc.) and I type accordingly!
Even with these caveats, many organizations are creating Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) for social networking applications, fully aware that, even with the potential risks, there are true opportunities for their appropriate and professional use. I have had the opportunity to speak to universities, professional networking groups, Human Resource organizations, etc. on the use of applications the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, et al as bona fide business tools.
Here are a few examples of how Social Networking can be beneficial:
- Seeking real world, virtually immediate feedback from your customers on your products or services.
- Providing an avenue for your staff to collaborate with peers in their industry or disciplines.
- Opening up a communication channel to interact with clients (present and potential) anywhere in the world.
- Creating an on-line presence for you and your organization that enhances your “Brand” in the marketplace.
Do these potential benefits have their downside? Most certainly, but in this global, digital age, failure to consider the appropriate use of these applications may leave you out in the cold!