Social Media In The Workplace

September 26th, 2008 by

Those of you who follow me on Plurk or Twitter probably saw my rants recently about the corporate decision to block Plurk.com on our network at the office.  While nothing was officially passed down, I am sure they felt it would help those of us who use it be “more productive” with our day.  The irony of this change is that the decision to block Plurk came shortly after the return of (The Gypsy) David Harry’s SEO Plurkshop; a clique which I frequently reference and pass on links from at the office.  I can understand blocking social sites like Plurk from departments that don’t NEED social media, but does it make sense to block something like Plurk from website marketers?

I get that social media isn’t always a business venture, and I know that those of us in the office that were using Plurk were not doing so on a strictly business basis.  I’ll be the first to admit that my use of Plurk was not always for the harvesting SEO information and news.  However, the time spent on Plurk outside of those tasks was used to develop relationships with others in the industry.  Relationships that have often provided me with useful and relevant information related to my work here in the office.

I think the problem is that most people still don’t understand social media and the value in it.  Sure there is A LOT of random banter and back and forth on social networks, but those interactions are what build relationships.  And out of those relationships you build a network of people who share their knowledge, their information, and their thoughts on subjects that in many cases may inspire your work or even give you a new idea or concept you might have never considered.

When the threat of a plurkless office was brought up a few months back I quickly tried to show the value in social media by openly passing on links and information from social sites that I felt would benefit my colleagues and our clients that I found on sites like Plurk and Twitter.  I would share links 2, 3, sometimes even 4 times a day with information that was relevant to the work we do.  These articles and ideas all came from social media and I would not have been aware of them had it not been for these sites.  There is always someone else out there who follows different people, reads different blogs, or has their own SEO experiences to share, many of which will never show up in your reader or during your personal research.

I feel that social media and website marketing go hand in hand.  I am a strong believer that social media can change the way businesses interact with the general public and other businesses in ways never imagined.  I also believe that the diversity of ideas, points of view, and information provided on social networks is a great way to help businesses and marketers alike stay on top of their industry and build a network of resources often lost in the sea of information on the internet.  Sure, social media might take a few minutes away from client work off and on throughout the day, but I think that the overall rewards outweigh those few minutes of “productivity” that are lost.  By blocking sites like Plurk in a marketing environment you are separating yourself from another avenue of valuable information that might not only benefit your employees, but often your clients.

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9 Responses to “Social Media In The Workplace”

  1. Audrey says:

    I think you bring up an excellent point. Where is the line drawn when it comes to tools and resources which are beneficial to the employee? If you can’t trust one, must you punish them all? These types of things should not be blanket issues.

  2. Mike Wilton says:

    Audrey, I think you bring up a great point. I was going to tackle the problem of punishing the many for the acts of the few, but I wanted to focus more on the benefits of social media and why it should be accepted.

    It’s all a matter of time management. I was managing my Plurk time by only keeping Plurk open in a tab and only checking when it said I had 15 or more unread items. This allowed me to bounce between my daily work tasks and Plurk while having minimal impact on my productivity.

  3. Alex Juel says:

    I think it’s a very poor decision to block Plurk from internet marketers, because it’s sites like this that can really help bring in traffic and links to your articles. I understand though, that sometimes management has to make the decision to block sites from their network to help boost productivity. Sometimes they just don’t understand and probably never will.

  4. John Jones says:

    It is no surprise that I never really jumped on the band wagon of Plurk and have little to no real involvement with Twitter. I’ll admit that Plurk is just something that never appealed to me and Twitter is something I simply don’t have time to pay attention to all that much at work or at home.

    Mike the resources you passed along were indeed useful but from my own point of view it seemed as though it took a major amount of paying attention to Plurk or Twitter before those resources were found. Let’s face it, neglecting a busy Plurk profile for even an hour means that you had to have gone back through to check out different posts that might have caught your eye.

    I agree that social media should be allowed in the office place so long as it is being utilized in a corporate environment and not so much in the personal way almost everyone using Plurk in the office was using it. Take Anna for example here in the office… she is extremely active on our forums and through out other forums while she is on the clock. The big difference is that she is active directly in relation to her job; she isn’t exactly promoting herself or trying to gain ground for herself, she is socially representing the company.

    Anyways, I’m sure my views are not all that popular in the department as far as Plurk goes but I for one am glad that it is gone.

  5. Mike Wilton says:

    John, you bring up some valid points. But I think it ultimately comes down to time management and how you are using social media. I have said that from day one. Social media CAN be a time suck if you let it. When I first started plurking it was a time suck. It was new, the verdict was still out amongst SEO’s as to whether the service was even worth it, and the new interface was a bit annoying at first.

    I have since established a system both at home and in the workplace that I only bounce between my work and Plurk every 15 or more updates (which can be seen in the Firefox tab so I don’t actually have to go to the page to see how many I’ve missed).

    The idea that it takes a lot of time to get articles from Plurk or Twitter is highly absurd. I user Twitterfox for Twitter so the posts pop up in a little window in the corner of my screen. If one catches my eye I open it and read it when I get a chance.

    On Plurk I quickly skim what’s new, comment if needed and then get back to work. It’s a system that since I put it in place doesn’t cut into my time that significantly. For a guy who doesn’t take breaks I think the few minutes here and there dedicated to social media shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal.

    And yes Anna does do her work to promote the company, but that is her job. It’s not my job to promote the company. It’s my job to do SEO work for clients and make sure their sites are up to speed with SEO practices. Furthermore I belong to some Plurk cliques that promote things on Sphinn, Stumble, Digg, etc. If god forbid one of my clients actually put together a decent post I could share it in one of those cliques and quickly get it some love from those social sites.

    I know there are some cases in which people probably use Plurk ONLY for social and personal uses in the workplace. I’m sure there are also cases in which the services are used primarily for self promotion, but as Audrey said above and as I have always said, go after the few instead of punishing the whole.

  6. Anna says:

    My involvement on Plurk is not strictly “professional” – if it was I would never get anywhere *professionally* because I would not have relevant involvement.

    There are some Social Media “star” players on Plurk and I have them as an open resource because I’ve become online friends with them. And I am not there to “use” them by any stretch. Yes, the company has benefited from my involvement on Plurk with increased traffic, especially to our blog. Also one of the people I speak with has a family member in our field of service and may become a client. It’s all connected.

    Social Media is s-o-c-i-a-l … its basis is not (old school) “professional” in nature. Defining what is professional is changing. There are lines, yes, of course… but companies are concerned with the bottom line. The way we increase the bottom line is changing. Networking isn’t just for cocktail hour anymore.

    Companies want to get more bang for their buck. So how’s free continuing education for your employees? The employee applies the knowledge to their work for the company. Production and know-how increases and it costs the company nothing more than they were already spending on retaining their resource. I can prove this – I have learned a lot from the people on Plurk specifically. I was lost on StumbleUpon until a Social Media friend helped me out. Why am I learning about StumbleUpon? For the company. Again – all connected.

    There are certain “rules” or etiquette guidelines to follow in online communication. I am not entirely comfortable with someone assuming what I do all day and then posting it in a blog comment. Thanks! 🙂

    Sidebar:
    If you’ll notice, the URL I use to comment and this and most other sites is my own blog, and my email is my personal email. Mike is my friend… the fact that we work for the same company is irrelevant here and should not be a factor for defending a “stance”. This is because it does matter what I say online – so my work and personal stuff is divided when appropriate. I would like to continue to make that decision for myself 😉

    That being said – Mike I love this post!! And to John – you have very valid points. It just goes to show why it’s always a difficult decision for companies to make… blocking or not, etc. I think as long as each person takes ownership of their duties and puts 100% into it all things like this will work out naturally.

  7. Mike Wilton says:

    Thanks for the comment Anna, again some great points. It’s funny you bring up the use of social media for education, because that was a big part of why at first I wasn’t a big fan of Plurk. SEO news and articles aren’t AS prominent on Plurk as they are on Twitter.

    However, I have since found that the social aspect of Plurk provided me with something more valuable than just blog posts and news. Instead of just reading blog after blog after blog by these people I find myself building relationships with them. Many of which have offered their assistance in times of need, and others who have simply kept me up to speed on their work, their findings, and projects they are working on.

    Sure you can do SEO and other website marketing without Social Media. But the other agencies, SEO’s, and SMM’s that are using social media are going to profit from your shortcomings and are going to build a network of resources that you won’t have access to.

  8. Anna says:

    Yes, there are people I have actual access to now that I never thought would talk to me. We even talk off-Plurk/Twitter. Not that I’m starstruck or trying to namedrop – just saying that I’ve made genuine connections that would not have been possible without these platforms.

  9. Mike Wilton says:

    Thank you guys for at least trying to keep your comments as general as possible…The focus of this post was never to focus on what happened to us here in our specific office, but to outline the benefits of social media in any website marketing environment. My personal situation just helped fuel the post.

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