Encouraging social web in the workplace may have side benefits

An article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye.  It provided some evidence that allowing at least some social media employee freedom is good for the workplace

We all know by now that most organizations limit or frown upon the use of social media in the workplace. Leaders have nightmarish visions of their employees wasting hours on Facebook and Twitter. But this article states that reasonable employee use of social media has actually been shown to benefit companies. Here are three reasons to let your employees get connected:

  1. More attractive workplace. Many people, especially younger generations, see social media as a staple of work life and seek out employers who understand and acknowledge the critical role these new technologies play in our world.
  2. Improved productivity. Research has shown that employees who take breaks to surf the Internet for fun are ultimately more productive than their surf-adverse colleagues.
  3. More engaged workforce.  Employees not only appreciate companies that allow them to check Facebook at work, but they also use social media to connect with colleagues, improve communication, and speed up decision making processes — all of which helps them engage with their work and the organization.

Obviously this is a two-edged sword.  This topic came up during the Q&A session after a speech I gave last week and a riot almost broke out. Many employers have EXTREMELY strong, negative views on this issue.

This battle is going to become even more heated with the ubiquity of mobile applications.

What’s going on in your workplace?  What are your views?

TV news anchor masters the social web to connect with viewers

One of our local news anchors, Tearsa Smith, has done a masterful job using the social web to connect to viewers in a personable, accessible manner. She’s a best practice — bringing her news, her news station, and her life to her fans with energy, enthusiasm and humor.  Tearsa can be found journaling through Twitter and Facebook at all hours it seems, especially if there is breaking news. In a world of arms-length celebrity, she is refreshing and unique.

Here is an interview with Tearsa covering her personal social media strategy:

Tearsa, how did you get involved in the social web? Was it an initiative from your news station, a personal decision, or both?

I’ve always been a fan of social media starting with MySpace and then moving on to Facebook. After connecting with every person I have ever encountered (I have more than 1,100 “friends” on my personal Facebook account) I was a bit against my news director’s push to get the newsroom involved with Twitter. A girl can only spend so many hours online. While reluctant, I now find Twitter to be the most engaging of the social media sites. It’s been very interesting talking with viewers about their take on stories, questions they have and just about life in general.

As you think about how you show up on the social web, is it connected to any personal or professional goals?

I don’t think I went into this with any “goals.” I am awful about calling friends and family and social media has been a great vehicle to stay connected and still juggle the million other things I have going on daily in my life.

The more I am engaged online I do start to see how online media can help anyone professionally. The goal is to be smart and not say everything you might be thinking – unless that is your goal. I have 1,500+ followers and you never know through networking if a potential future employer is waiting in the wings and “following” me. Do I want to come across as smart, likable, witty and well rounded or bitter, disgruntled and unapproachable? Anyone with a skill or interest in a particular industry has the opportunity to “show-off” without seeming pushy or desperate for a job.

Can you point to any ways your participation in Twitter and Facebook has benefited you professionally?

I have two separate lives in the social media world. I have two separate accounts for Facebook – one is public and the other is private. On Twitter I merge the two a bit more. Personally it has been so interesting to catch up with people from my past and family members. On a professional note I LOVE interacting with viewers daily. They remind me daily that we aren’t just reporting stories but that what we report affects real people and their lives for the good or bad.

A lot of fellow journalists don’t see the benefits of social media but I think it is a great tool to connect. I have had really good story ideas pitched to me via Twitter/Facebook because people feel like they know me or they can trust me.  As journalists we miss the mark if we just spit out news headlines throughout the day – that’s what the official TV station/newspaper’s Twitter/Facebook/MySpace account is for. It’s my job to ask people what they think and if they have any follow ups to enhance the story.

About how much time do you spend on Twitter/Facebook each day?  Is it difficult to keep up with fan requests?

You don’t even want to know.  Actually I don’t even want to know. I am on from 4 am-11:30am while I’m at work. I am on after work hours on my Blackberry throughout the day and of course I pop online before bed on my laptop. You do the math! It’s not hard keeping up with fan/viewer requests as long as they request information from public pages.  All of this while balancing work, a household, husband and 1 year old daughter.

How do you handle the inevitable invasiveness that occurs when a TV personality opens up for public display?

I am very guarded about what I say and how I say it. It is very rare that I disclose where I am until I have left the location. Exceptions are made for work sponsored events where I am not alone. I think this is a good idea for anyone, especially women looking at their safety. For example if I am out shopping I don’t say where I am but I will still give any observations that I think are funny or interesting at the time. Over time, you will get people who feel especially close to you and it’s up to me to draw that fine line between engaging and overstepping boundaries. Usually I can wiggle out of invasiveness with a little humor.

What are my chances I can follow in your footsteps as a popular news anchor?  Be honest, Tearsa.

Honestly, Mark … you just don’t have the hair for it … Sorry.

Research shows fastest-growing businesses pile on to the social web

A brand new study from the University of Massachusetts Center for Marketing Research  compares adoption of social media over three years (2007-2009) by the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies.

In 2007, the Center’s first study of this group was released and revealed that the Inc. 500 was outpacing the Fortune 500 companies in their use of social media. For example, 8 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to 19 percent of the Inc. 500. This difference accelerated in 2008 with 16 percent of the Fortune 500 blogging vs. 39 percent of the Inc. 500. And in 2009, it was 45 percent versus 22 percent fo the Big Boys.

This research shows that social media has penetrated this part of the business world with tremendous speed:

Not just for customers and employees – As the graph above depicts, many companies are using the social platforms to connect to other stakeholders such as vendors and business partners. This was a new question for 2009 and the first time I have seen this kind of data. Interesting!

Social media marketing has been “successful” – When asked if the use of social media has been successful for their business, the overwhelming response is that it has. Twitter users report an 82% success rate while every other tool studied enjoys at least an 87% success level. Measuring success was investigated and most respondents report using hits, comments, leads or sales as primary indicators.

Policy use still low –  61 percent of the respondents did NOT have a corporate social media policy

Importance and adoption — When queried on the importance of social media, 44% of respondents felt that social media is “very important” to their business and marketing strategy, up from 26 percent.  And a walloping 91 percent of the Inc. 500 is using at least one social media tool in 2009 (up from 77 percent in 2008).

Monitoring gains –  68 percent of the companies formally monitor company and brand information on the social web.  That number is up from 60% in 2008 and 50% just two years ago.

Further immersion –  The companies clearly intend to continue immersing themselves in these tools.  44 percent of those without corporate blogs intend to have one. 27 percent of respondents who do not currently have a business presence on Twitter plan to move into that space.

Social networking leads –  The technology that continues to be the most familiar to the Inc. 500 is social networking with 75 percent of respondents in 2009 claiming to be “very familiar with it” (compared to 57 percent in 2008). Another noteworthy statistic around familiarity is Twitter’s amazing “share of mind” with 62 percent of executives reported being familiar with the new microblogging and social networking platform.

Adoption curves for social media technologies vary –  Interestingly, while social networking and blogging have enjoyed growth in actual adoption, the use of message boards, online video, wikis and podcasting has leveled off or even declined. The addition of Twitter for the first time in the latest study shows that an amazing 52 percent of the Inc. 500 companies are already using this tool for business.

What stands out for you in this research? Any big surprises? Or is it ALL a surprise? : )

Many thanks to the authors of this study, Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes,  and Eric Mattson.

Seven crucial tips to help you keep up with technology

In my recent post on the time-sucking dragon known as the social web, Jody Pirello offered some comments on how she keeps up with the latest trends. I think this is a critical career skill these days and I encouraged her to flesh it out into a post. It is our great fortune that she did — a MUST READ!  Here’s Jody:

I evolved into eMarketing differently than many of you probably did.  I started my career as a programmer.   As a developer I had to learn how to stay current, keep abreast of upcoming changes, and learn how to separate the here-to-stay from the gone-tomorrow. Those skills help me today, too.

Here are a few of the ways I do it (or at least, try to do it)

  1. Use downtime wisely - I’m amazed at all the little bits of time I have available – waiting for a conference call to start, waiting on late team members, or even standing in line at the post office.  My iPhone gets a workout during these times!
  2. Learn, always -  I work professional development into my every day life.  I watch video presentations while eating lunch, listen to podcasts during my  commute, and intentionally blur the line between professional and personal.  I’ll frequently have a conversation over drinks at the bar on a Friday night that translates into something I use Monday on the job.
  3. Cultivate a learning ecosystem - No matter how committed I am I just can’t do it all.  I rely on a set of friends and colleagues to broaden my knowledge.  I have a friend who knows all things mobile, a colleague who’s a whiz at CPG , and another friend who has a thing for twitter apps.  And hopefully I contribute to the mix with my web development and project management knowledge.
  4. Be selective - I can’t keep up with everything so I choose a set of problems, verticals and technologies to focus on.  This goes hand-in-hand with my learning ecosystem.
  5. Work portably - I’d be nowhere without tools and services that allow me to work effectively on my terms.  Two of my favorites are delicious and Google docs.  They’re hardly earth-shattering but they have a big impact on my productivity.  If I come across an article that I’m interested in but don’t have the time to read it right now, I add it to delicious.  Same thing goes if I’m at home and want to use a site while at work.  Google docs is great for enabling me to do my work wherever I may be.  I write most of my blog posts in google docs too, and its one-click sharing allows me to get input and feedback without needing to merge comments.
  6. Use my Google Foo - Knowing how to use search engines effectively is a must-have skill.  If you want to extend your Google knowledge or even just do a little brush up, take a look at Google’s search tips.   Don’t discount the less popular engines either – occasionally you can discover real gems by broadening to one of the others.
  7. Prioritize blog reading - I have “must read” and “daily read” categories in my RSS reader.  I’ve made it a rule to never do the dreaded “mark all read” to these folders.  I may not read them everyday (yep, sometimes I even get behind on the “daily read” folder) but I do make sure I read them all – usually by the end of the weekend.

I’ve outlined what works well for me – my working and learning styles.  The key has been to find tools and processes that I could adapt into my regular life without effort.  If I had to try too hard to make them work they’d be among the first to go when I was busy or tired or just feeling a bit lazy.

What works well for you?

Jody Pirrello is a web technologist specializing in project management methodologies, business analysis, and web analytics. She’s the VP of Technology at NetPlus Marketing in suburban Philadelphia and one half of the SocialCloudNow http://socialcloudnow.com/team.  Follow her on Twitter @jpirrello.

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