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Archive for May 2011

Should employees be allowed to use social media at work?

Posted Thursday, May 12th, 2011

A recent survey has suggested that half of the UKs employees are banned from using Facebook and other social networking sites. Companies blame the ban on wasted time and also the risk of misrepresenting the company image. So is the ban justifiable and is it beneficial to implement the restriction?

Looking first at the reasons why employees SHOULD be allowed to use the social networking sites, a survey in 2008 concluded that companies which allowed e-time during the working day made workers more productive and boosted morale and thus reduced stress. Goldsmiths College went so far as to suggest that £4 billion pounds a year was being lost by companies who’s employees were not putting enough effort into work. Obviously, it’s questionable how much an employee’s productivity would increase by using Facebook specifically, but certainly the opportunity to relax and take time away from work for 5 minutes, will help the employee. When employees were questioned, 85% suggested that an ebreak made them more productive than stopping for a tea- maybe because they could drink tea and surf the internet at the same time!

On the other hand, using social networking sites can be dangerous. Not only is it difficult to patrol if staff were allowed to tweet or update but who’s to say that they will restrict themselves to 5 minutes every 2 hours for example? Does a bell ring so everyone can stop typing and check their Facebook and then drop their update mid sentence and return to work ‘productively’ when the bell rings 5 minutes later? Is the temptation not going to be too great?

What’s more, what are they going to be saying? Will they be connecting with friends to tell them how bored they are at work, or that the they wish they could hook up with another employee or the boss came in looking hungover? Once these types of updates are being made you’re treading dangerous ground. The BECTU (The Media and Entertainment Union) states ‘If you make disparaging comments on social networking sites about either your employer or third parties, you could be exposing yourself to being sued for defamation by either the employer or the third parties, or both, depending upon the circumstances’. Furthermore, an employee could be accused of harassment or even dismissed if the company feels the employment or hiring contract has been broken.

It is no doubt a minefield- do you prevent your staff from using social media but reduce their productivity OR allow them to make updates and risk negative comments being made about the company? Is it possible that companies could lift the ban during the 12-1 when most people take their lunch break? Could the company control administer a page/profile which allows the employees to interact with each other? It does seem that companies have been taken by surprise with the rise of social media- they don’t have their own strategies and presence arranged, let alone internal policies. It’s time they gave it some thought- it’s not going away any time soon!

Royal Wedding V Osama on the social media

Posted Friday, May 6th, 2011

We witnessed two major global events over the last bank holiday weekend, one rejoicing the start of a new life together with the marriage of William and Kate and the other being the breaking news that Bin Laden had been shot by Navy Seals.

The Royal Wedding attracted an audience of 2 billion people, a third of the world’s population whilst Osama’s death was the most concealed secret in recent history and was watched by a handful of Obama’s closest advisors. Interestingly though, Osama’s death was first revealed on twitter when a person from Abootabad was live tweeting the attack- “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is a rare event),” he went on to document the death of the most wanted man.

But what we’re interested in is how this affected the social media?

Were people still only interested in celebrating the Royal Wedding or was this long forgotten when news broke about Osama? Would it make a difference that the Royal Wedding had been planned long in advance and therefore people were already updating their social networking profiles or would the sudden news of Osama create a sudden reaction and sense that the news needed to be spread?

A few moments after Obama announced the death of Osama, one-fifth of global Tweets contained the word ‘Obama’. In comparison the Royal Wedding only reached one-tenth of all updates. Google saw a one million percent increase in searches for “bin Laden” and Twitter said messages posted between 7:45 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. PT that night were the “highest sustained rates of Tweets ever,” with Twitter averaging 3,000 tweets per second during that time.

Royal Wedding received several mentions during the 6 month lead up but Osama was being paid very little attention.  However on the day of the respective events the outcome was very different- Osama’s death far outweighed the wedding. Was this because it was sudden news or were people actually more interested? There’s no doubt the events are localized- the UK would have paid more attention to the wedding and the US would have been more interested in Osama’s death and therefore it may be that it’s the sheer population that accounts for the difference.

So what does this demonstrate? That news is best received on the social media when it is broken suddenly, or is it a because the content was more shocking? A previous record was when Michael Jackson suddenly died- Twitter witnessed 456 tweets per second. So what does this say about Twitter? Is it therefore a platform that is used to break sudden news and share it very quickly. The Osama news was the first time Twitter demonstrated that it was more reliable and accurate and the first source of breaking news. Major news stations were reacting to Twitter and behind its coverage. Is this the moment Twitter truly became the first port of any breaking news?

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