In the late nineties, when the internet started to become popular, the beginning of a revolution started: mails could be traded not only electronically, but instantly as well, and the first instant messengers (ICQ comes to mind) were invented. Centralized, unidirectional communication started to lose space to bidirectional communication – a powerful way not only to get information, but to socialize as well.
At first, this had little impact at workplaces: modems were slow, the costs of being connected to the internet to the average person were prohibitive to the average user, and communication was usually restricted to text-based messages and a few photos.
During the last decade, however, communication went through a revolution: both bandwidth costs and prices of storage devices fell sharply, and processing power became cheaper. This provided users a fertile ground to create videos, take thousands of photos, upload their high-quality mp3 songs to their favorite homepages, and so on.
It was then that social media started to become serious.
In no more than a few years, social media changed from a hobby into almost a need to be connected – all the time, everywhere. And this very need is giving companies a hard time: LoveMint.com, a partner of Wall Street Journal, for instance, states that social media can lead of a loss of productivity of around 1.5% in a company, “the difference between keeping a company open or closed if the budget is low”.
The risks, though, are not limited to material damage: they can go as far as damaging internal relationships as well.People, as previously stated, are socializing beings, and unfortunately conflicts may occur from this kind of socialization. Msnbc.msn.com, for instance, states that an employee was fired after publishing derisive comments about her boss. The fact led to a suit, possible brand exposure, and possible loss of money – every company’s nightmare coming true.
Does that Mean that Companies should Shun Social Media?
If social media presents serious threats to businesses, why should it be allowed? First, let’s face it: social media is here to stay: not only social media represents 22% of all time spent online, states MediaWire, but according to e-commerce guide.com, but 5 out of 10 social media tools are being adopted by “more than 50% of brands and retailers”, states the news portal. This means that, although there are risks, any company could seriously benefit from social media. Therefore, here’s a list with a few tips on how to decrease profit loss:
How to Prevent Internet Abuse
- Manage the time your employees spend online: have you ever considered liberating the internet only during break time and filtering certain sites? While people tend to frown upon this, they will still be able to browse the internet (which will keep them happy)while still minimizing productivity losses.
- Allow access to some sites only to certain groups: if your company does decide that accessing sites such as Facebook outside lunch break is important, consider restricting this privilege only to those who are prepared to handle this kind of communication properly, as the PR staff of your company.
- Track who is misusing your internet connection: you can use a proxy to identify abusers and modify your policies so your employees will sign a contract stating that their online activity may be monitored. Again, this will not turn you into Mr. Nice Guy, but you might consider this to be better than employing per-site restrictions.
- Micromanage sites your employees visit: simply using a huge firewall to block many sites isn’t very effective. What if your company decided that Facebook is harmful, but Twitter is essential to spreading your business around? Never block any site “just because”: you might be losing a valuable tool that would help you grow otherwise.
- Make productivity expectations clear: after all, it’s not only the internet that’s at fault in productivity loss. Reading a magazine, watching TV, listening to an mp3 player instead of working; these are time wasters, too. That way, you’ll increase productivity overall, and not just recover lost productivity from online time wasters.
Although social media can decrease profit and productivity when used inadequately, they’re here to stay, and if managed properly, they can increase brand awareness at an inexpensive price, increasing loyalty both from your employees and customers. A good way to make your company grow is to create a proper social media account with your company logo and signature, and a personalized page. Also, don’t forget to “shout” about your brand: create a friendly workplace and a social media page, and your own employees will gather their friends to your page, which means they’ll be exposed to your products. This way, you can have a peaceful workplace, loyal employees and customers and new customers arriving virally, exponentially – And this is the dream of every company.
|Chase R. Smith is a productivity and time management professional. For more tips & techniques to help you become more effective with managing your time and tasks visit Chase at http://www.chasingproductivity.com.
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