So much has been written about how to keep employees off of social media that researchers are starting to study the null argument. Namely, could using social media at work be beneficial? In a recent study published in the Information Systems Journal, the answer is yes.
On social computing and enterprise systems
What the study took a look at was the effect of social computing (business social media) on enterprise systems (business integration systems such as ERP and CRM). And they only took a look at one company. So this is a singular case study and is not going justify the behavior of serial Tweeters. But it is a study of social media’s effect on tangible, measurable activity and that’s important.
With enterprise social tools like Yammer, Chatter, Bitrix24, and a host of others offering companies their own social intranets, and incredible integration tools like IFTTT and Zapier to tie other actions to enterprise social, it makes a lot of sense that there would be productivity gains to using these technologies. I wrote earlier this week about a talk by Jonathan Wichmann, social media manager for Maersk Line where he claimed a 20-25% productivity increase for knowledge workers with social integration (their enterprise solution is Chatter). While that may be a pretty unreasonable goal for most businesses, consensus seems to be building that enterprise social adds value. Consider this study another nudge towards the consensus view.
When I read about this study, I was hoping that it would substantiate the value of employees participating in their typical social networks at work. This is an area that needs further study and rethinking. A study a couple of years ago found that employees may be spending up to 50% of their time on email, another study says that a typical employee may spend up to an hour a day in meetings. Since each person’s social media footprint is local and employee connections are analogous to Granovetter’s “weak-ties” for any given business, it seems to me that there is a huge marketing opportunity for businesses that many are militantly fighting.
There’s a common preconception that employers should optimize their business to get as close to 100% time-on-task from their employees as they can. Social media is impermissible in that model. But there’s unrealized value for businesses that change their understanding of social media to acknowledge that their employees can be organic marketing assets if empowered. I think that’s one of points from Maersk Line’s strategy that resonated with people. It did with me.
What say you? Is social media good for businesses? Is enterprise social good and personal-use bad? How gray is the gray area?