It seems almost instinctive to think that employees who spend time on Social media platforms will have reduced productivity. After all, how does chatting with friends on facebook, sending tweets and browsing through Pinterest contribute to the company’s bottom line?
The truth is that depending on who is using a specific platform, how they are using it and how well they understand the medium, you get different results. The key differentiator for productivity is whether time is spent on personal entertainment like chatting with friends, or on social business activities where they are engaging with those who can spend money on the company’s products and services or boost the brand.
Outward facing functions such as PR, Marketing and Customer Service, are easily aligned to social media and staff in these functions can justify online activity. But increasingly, new platforms are popping up all the time with the potential to create utility for roles like HR, Operations or Distribution, putting a further spin on managing social media related productivity.
Marketing and Brand communication
Social media engagements can be used to reach new audiences, and boost existing off line communications. For instance, facebook can be used to publicize a company sponsored event and You Tube can be used to show a demo of a new product. Therefore an employee who is responding to comments and following up on leads generated from social media is in fact being productive
Reputation management and market intelligence
From a reputation management point of view, social networks can serve as a barometer of public sentiment. If you are in the luxury goods market, you can tap into what people are saying about yours and competitor brands or products, and if you are in financial services, you can gain insight on why customers are struggling to save, and feed that information into your strategy and products.
Additionally, people tend to be frank about their consumer experiences when they are talking to their ‘friends’ on these platforms, and your brand very well be the subject of discussion. You can either ignore this information or use it to manage public perception.
Diversity of ideas and intelligence
Given that 2 billion people (and growing) are online, they provide a massive resource for information. Employees can use their networks to learn best practices from other companies, to pick up on new technologies in their industry and even have the opportunity for someone thousands of kilometers away contribute to solving some work-related challenges.
Ensuring that if time is spent on social networks, the social commerce component exceeds the socializing aspect can be difficult to determine. The line between ‘work’ and ‘social’ can get blurry very quickly, so your staff need to have good time management skills to work well in this space.
If your company does not tie indicators to online activity, quantifying whether social media interactions result in business success, or lack of, can be quite difficult. Loss of revenue and time lost can only become clear when it is too late.
Level of understanding
Social platforms aren’t monolithic, and unless your people are clear about how each platform plugs into achieving goals or how their target audience likes to be interacted with, then they could be wasting time, or worse still, alienating their market. Education also bears on areas like leaking of sensitive or confidential company information and understanding how to avoid online threats like viruses.
Since social media isn’t going way, the onus is on companies to ensure that employees are as well equipped, educated and as enabled as possible to use these tools for the benefit of the company, rather than to its detriment.
Puseletso Mompei is a Communications Consultant and Trainer. She offers Communications and Media training for corporate executives, spokespersons, managers, entrepreneurs, government officials, diplomats, academia and public relations officers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.kwazicommunications.co.za for more information.