Social media takes time. Didn’t we mention that? You may have heard detractors say that evangelising social media is fine, but it can suck down huge amounts of valuable company time and get in the way of ‘real work’. And they’re not wrong. A recent survey of 1,460 office workers in the UK claimed that social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter could be costing British businesses £1.38 billion per year. Now, it is possible to argue that browsing the Internet, making personal phone calls, smoking or simply office chitchat at the water cooler can be equally big offenders, but the undeniable fact is that, regardless of how you calculate it, social media can waste a lot of time.
Beginning a social media program and building social media connections is a time-consuming, ongoing process that will require ongoing planning, review and time-management. If you’re not prepared for that, then it may be better not to roll out a social media program at all. Anyone that has been bitten by the Facebook or Twitter bug will know how addictive social media can be, leaving you forever wondering if you have missed something whilst offline and drawing you in for a quick look at your updates, which can well turn out to be an hour or more of social media time that eats into your day. So, it’s an understandable concern for employers that opening their organisations up to social media may well be something of a Pandora’s box. Organisations can build up useful relationships with customers, partners, journalists, bloggers and other influencers if they communicate and network well over social media, but encouraging staff to communicate and connect more with social media audiences may well result in many hours of unaccountable company time spent on social media.
Regular social media users will know that time can also be the enemy where one’s social life is concerned and social media time can effortlessly eat away at their free time and social lives. Email and mobile phones have already done a great deal to blur the lines between work time and free time and those that are using social media for work will find that it can exacerbate the problem. Those that use social media for both work and social connections may well find themselves connecting almost every waking hour to check updates, respond to messages and monitor goings on. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, work time, free time, family time, weekends all meld into one seemingly continuous social media conversation.
Most people would agree that this is probably not a good thing at all.
Can social media be effectively time-managed?
Can social media be effectively time-managed? Yes, it can. Social media time-management issues have come to the forefront recently because social media communication is still very new and many of the rules have yet to be written. However, companies can set useful social media ground rules at the outset and many of these will be similar to guidelines set for company meetings, sales calls, telephone calls, emails and other forms of company communications. For example, you wouldn’t send your sales force out to attend meetings without briefing, objective setting, qualifying, monitoring and reviewing sales effectiveness. Likewise, it makes little sense to task employees with social media communications without taking both a strategic and tactical look at the opportunities and threats that social media surfaces. And no this doesn’t mean that delegating someone to investigate or research social media opportunities is a waste of time, just be aware that that’s not a long-term plan to manage your company’s long-term engagement with social media, particularly as more people get involved along the way.
If social media continues to gain and sustain consumer audiences in the way that it has so far, abstaining from social media completely is not going to be viable option for many companies. So, looking at social media obectives, program management and HR policies for social media use in the company are going to be tasks that many organisations will have to consider and, arguably, it’s going to pay companies to evaluate these issues sooner rather than later. Moreover, there is a human resource and staff development factor to consider here too. The salesperson that spends the most time out at meetings is not necessarily the best salesperson. The administrator who stays late everyday in the office may not be the best administrator. As with many commercial activities, hours spent on social media may be a poor measure of performance altogether.