Why You Should Let Your Employees Use Facebook

I have been making a bit of noise, both in presentations and in the press (sometimes misquoted – yeeuch) about corporates who block their employees from using Facebook. Now I see Vinny adding his 2c to the mix in response to a News24 article on the subject.

An excerpt:

And, according to Absa, the banking group has done the same although it will consider access based on individual requests.

“We don’t see any business need for Absa staff to access the site,” said a spokesperson.

Here’s my take on it. If you’re looking for a business reason, I’ll give you 5

  1. If you can’t beat ’em…

    If your employees aren’t wasting time on Facebook, they’ll waste time on something else. Collecting that extra cup of coffee. Smoking. Wandering aimlessly from building to building. Playing Freecell. If they’re smart, as Vinny says, they’ll just use their mobile phones. It’s like telling your 3 year-old not to touch the cookies. Forbidden fruit always tastes better. Employees also waste time talking to friends and texting on their personal mobile phones but you don’t ban those. For crying out loud, your employees waste time with email. Why not ban that too. Heck, let’s ban all electronic communication. That will really up productivity.

    When technology leaps forward, find a way to harness and leverage it, don’t avoid the trend – you will regret it later

  2. Learn something about your employees

    Facebook can tell you a lot about the way your employees connect with each other, with your customers and with their networks. I’m sure if you saw your employees using LinkedIn.com you’d be ok with it because it’s a ‘professional’ social networking tool.

    Facebook and LinkedIn function on the same fundamental premise – that social networks can be manipulated, leveraged and capitalised upon when they can be seen. Facebook is more fun than LinkedIn. In fact, Facebook has all but replaced LinkedIn for many business people (including myself) as a primary social networking tool. I get far more business from old connections remade and serendipitous meetings on Facebook than I ever did on LinkedIn.

    A year ago, if I’d have said something along the lines of ‘social networking is ever increasingly becoming a useful tool for individuals to enhance their professional lives’. That statement has been made redundant by Facebook. Now it’s all but stupid and narrow-minded not to have a Facebook profile. That’s a strong statement but I mean every word of it.

    I might have said the same thing of email ten years ago, when you where still deciding if it would be a useful tool for business (or if your employees would waste time with it)…

  3. Talent attraction and retention

    I bet you talent attraction and retention is top of your HR agenda. Possibly top of your business agenda. What message are you sending out to potential employees when you block Facebook? We discourage experimentation? We don’t like the Internet? New trends = taboo at our company? We don’t trust you???

    Have you thought about setting up a profile / group for your organisation? Speaking to new and emerging talent in their language, in their space? Going to them to show them you are genuinely interested in them?

    Off the record, one of my more progressive customers, who has not blocked Facebook but rather encourages it, is actually hiring me to do an ANALYSIS of usage in the company to find out how they can leverage employee networks and the digital presence for talent attraction. Hmmm…

  4. Learn something about your customers

    As I write this I have 475 Facebook friends. Most people have 50-100. You can tell that by looking at my Facebook profile. Delve a little deeper and you’ll be able to see what music I listen to, what movies I watch, what events I’m attending in the next few weeks, what I like and don’t like, what I do for a living, what groups I belong to, my educational background, my religious views, my sexual orientation. Heck, practically everything I’m prepared to let anyone know on the Web is there.

    Ask yourself this simple question: Could you sell your product or service more effectively to me, knowing those snippets of info? Could your salespeople? Could your client liaison guys? Could your front line people? I guess they probably could. But I’ll also hazard a guess that your front line where the first to have Facebook blocked from their terminals, because of course they are the cheap labour (who waste so much time already) in your workforce…

    Would you be invading my privacy? Some would say yes. But if I’m thick enough to put all that out on the Web and NOT expect someone to look at it, I deserve what I get.

    Let me let you in on a little secret… I WANT you to look at my Facebook profile. I WANT you to know more about me – who I connect to, who I influence, what I do. I WANT YOU (and your highly trained sales staff) TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ME. And Facebook is the best opportunity you have to find that out.

    If not Facebook, Google. Google my name and see what you get. It’s my digital fingerprint – my Google CV.

    Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Mike, you’re a geeky dude – at best only 5% of our customers interact with the Web the way you do”. Fair enough and you’re right. But you can rest assured that 5% is your most connected, progressive and I daresay influential market segment you have. Ask Dell. Another thought – this social connectivity trend is not abating. It’s swelling. Which end of the trend do you want to be on?

  5. You might learn something
    What are you doing to upskill yourself in the social media / networking / software department? This is more than just tech, this is a human trend. Your employees are doing it. Your customers are doing it. And you’re still getting your PA to print out your emails. Facebook could help you familiarise yourself with social networking, aggregation, blogging and a number of other social media trends and technologies that could stand you in good stead as the tide shifts.

    It is no coincidence that GIBS and UCT GSB are running social media executive programmes. There is a need, and a market, for education in this new arena. Make sure you have the skills to capitalise on this new trend.

    Facebook is the ideal sandbox – you need to learn to play again (and allow your employees to do so too)

So there’s lots you know about Facebook – it wastes time, slow down productivity and more. Hopefully this article has shed light on how it can be more than that. But what you might not know is that Mark Zuckerberg, the 24 year old founder and owner of Facebook has already gone on record as turning down no less than USD 1 billion from Yahoo! for the site. That was last year, before it’s explosion internationally. Now it’s estimated value is just short of USD 10 billion.

Shouldn’t you be paying some attention to this thing?

  • Well said Mike, my thoughts exactly.
    I’d be interested to know more about the HR scenario. I’m discussing something similar.
    Thomas

  • Lifehacker had a post last week about productivity apps in facebook- so it’s even possible to use it as a platform for making your staff more productive – http://lifehacker.com/software/technophilia/get-productive-with-the-best-facebook-apps-282914.php

  • Let people know how to get around FB blocking:

    http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB118539543272477927.html

  • Dugg!

    http://digg.com/security/Why_You_Should_Let_Your_Employees_Use_Facebook

    Not sure if this really belongs in security, but it’s the only category I could think of which applied. Great work Mikey.

  • Cool post Mike.

    I don’t understand how corporates of today don’t see the benefit of using these types of sites & apps. You could even use FB to research potential employees, find out what hobbies or music they like (introduce them to similar people, to make them feel more at ease), see if they have blogs etc, or even check out there status history, to see if they have hangovers every Friday ;)

    I think SA companies defenitley lack in this area when understanding how potentially useful these types of sites can be. One day soon that will all hopefully change :)

  • Julie Pearson

    I have tried all the social networks. I actually like Congoo the best because I actually use the site everyday. The other ones are either too noisy or too young. My profile is here: http://www.congoo.com/user/publicprofile?profile_id=1665525

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  • Great post, I think you should send out a corporate memo to every company you can.

  • Stii

    Ok, I’ve never really liked FB all that much. I also thought its a great waste of time, BUT what you just said makes perfect sense. It would be a great tool to actually learn more about employees! Also true that whether they waste time on FB or not, the will find hundreds of alternative ways to waste time FB or no FB. Indeed, very good post mate!

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  • Daniel

    I read similar article also named Why You Should Let Your Employees Use Facebook, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

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  • Molefe

    The the problem is not the facebook, the addiction to facebook by employees thus low productivity would become a major issue while we (SA) already have one the worst productivy in the world

    • Giles

      Quite a big claim to make Molefe, how you see SA is very egative indeed. And closed minded in my opinion. Where’s your proof? Can you substantiate your claims? The “addiction” you speak of – Is this a new medically proven thing? I’ve never heard of facebook addiction. Does facebook have the power to control people that much? Would losing one’s job not be more incentive to do work, not facebook being banned? Facebook banning assumes that people would rather lose their jobs than lose FB. Doesn’t make much sense to me. I know major, infact the most successful companies in the world allow their employees access to facebook. Google is one of them. They even let their employees rollerblade around the campus! WOah, risky business hey? Some places even have BARS. Flip what next hey? Here’s a link for you. Maybe it will help you take your head out the sand. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSSGE63J07N20100420

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  • Giles

    Hey Molefe, where’s your proof for South Africa being one of the worst countries for productivity? Where’s you evidence and understanding in a global context or are you merely expressing your biased opinion? Perhaps it’s a lack of forward thinking individuals and leaders in this country that ban facebook that prevents productivity. I’m not a professional in this regard but given the evidence plainly stated on this page, it is quite ridiculous to ignore not only what is on this page, but ridiculous to ignore the statistics that show how many people use facebook and how often, and what kinds of people use it and for what purposes. I have no proper reference here but i’m sure it you did a bit of research yourself you would find enough to convince you otherwise. Facebook is a multifaceted and dynamic business tool and S.A. businesses should get with the program and use it wisely. I’m in advertising and i think it’s a joke how it is banned in my company. It’s blatant refusal to harness the benefits of it, which is just backwards in my opinion. I mean how much more closed off do you want to be? Do companies actually want to get with it or would they prefer to stay living under their rocks?

  • This application http://www.timedoctor.com/1 uses a better method than blocking Facebook because it just monitors Facebook on work hours. Team members can use Facebook on lunch breaks. Also some people might need Facebook for work purposes so it’s stupid to just block it.

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