Social networking & the workplace

Dan Pontefract’s recent blog post on companies (not) allowing Facebook at work has prompted me to dust off the topic of how social helps companies get the business of communicating, collaborating and learning done – and hence the business of business done! I’d like challenge a few misconceptions:

Enterprises consider social media only in terms of their potential as a marketing tool:

It’s obvious that social networking outlets such as Twitter and Facebook are channels through which enterprises can deliver information and engage customers with an unprecedented level of creativity and reach. What most do not realize is that “some 70% of the extra profit to be made through social technologies has nothing to do with marketing. It’s in areas of the company such as knowledge management, innovation, communication, and better integration with the supply chain.”1

In the book New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media2, we are provided with real-world case studies and supportive research to demonstrate how social networking is helping employees learn, innovate, share knowledge and engage peers, business partners, and customers. In this ‘knowledge-building ecosystem’ people are at its core and information-transfer becomes a form of currency. “We need new ways to filter content, save information and learn from each other and our trusted sources,” write authors Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.

In this post, Clive Shepherd outlines four roles for social media in workplace learning (for further details please read his post!):

  • Formal learning
  • Non-formal learning
  • On-demand learning
  • Experiential learning

Clive rightly points out that ‘whether or not L&D professionals or senior managers embrace social media doesn’t really matter in the long run, because there is no turning back, only futile resistance’ – opening up to social networks is as inevitable and necessary as using the internet is for getting work done nowadays.

Social networking decreases worker productivity:

According to a 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review: “the potential for value creation when social technologies are used to improve collaboration and communication within and across enterprises is twice as big as the value that can be created through all other uses across the value chain.”

Companies are in fact beginning to discover that social platforms provide a far more efficient way of communicating and collaborating!

In a study released by corporate wellness firm Keas, Facebook breaks makes employees happier, healthier, and more productive. Check out their nifty infographic below.

Social is a feature, product or entity in isolation:

Rather, “the rise of the social web is a structural change being driven by online life catching up with offline life.” Paul Adams summed the essential problem up nicely in “Stop talking about “social”. He points out the two main problems are:

  • Not enough people are recognizing that the web is being fundamentally rebuilt around people, and that this is going to change how all of us do business
  • Too many of the people who are thinking about social, are thinking about it as a distinct entity

“Social is not a feature. Social is not an application. Social is a deep human motivation that drives our behaviour almost every second that we’re awake. […] The leading businesses are recognizing that the web is moving away from being centred around content, to being centred around people. That is the biggest social thunderstorm, and all of us are going to have to understand it to succeed. So stop talking about social as a distinct entity.”

What that means is that the ‘winners’ in this brave new online world will be the people and organizations that assume social behaviour in everything they do!


  1. HBR blog: Look Beyond Your “Social Media Presence”
  2. The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media (ASTD Press and Berrett-Koehler/Available now)
  3. HBR Blog: Social Media’s Productivity Payoff
  4. Think Outside In blog: Stop talking about “social”
  5. CIO Insight: Education Slideshow: Social Media: A Workplace Learning Tool
About the author:
Roberta Gogos is a Social Media and Content Strategist and eFront’s community manager. She contributes to a number of blogs, focusing on social media, culture-specific communication, collaboration, elearning and social learning. She can be contacted on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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