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Employers and Facebook: Turn the Other Cheek

by Gavin Heaton  |  
August 27, 2007

There has been a feast of BSP (blogger sensory perception) this week over two converging topics -- Facebook and "participation"... and I have been fascinated by the implications.

Drew McLellan points out that a number of corporations are banning the use of Facebook during work hours. One of those companies is Telstra -- Australia's leading telecommunications company. And a raft of other companies seem to be following suit.
Leaving aside the fact that some of these companies so afraid of Facebook are, themselves, online or technology-focused organisations, there seems to be another agenda at play.
And while employers may well be concerned that Facebook could chew up a significant portion of their employee's days, it is clear (to me at least) that prohibiting access to them is not the answer.
You see, employees are as much a part of your brand as the products that you sell. Your employees largely determine the experience that consumers have with your brand and products/services and, importantly, they provide a humanising effect -- they ARE the "customer face." Just as there are expectations on employee behavior and approaches to engaging and working with customers, so too should there be policies about "acceptable use" for social networking sites.
But there is more.
In the never-ending pursuit of "value," Facebook and employee networks are the closest thing that many organizations are likely to find to an "Expert Network." Somewhere out there, probably only a couple of connections away, your employee will have access to someone of great influence. They may be a great thinker, designer or writer. They may be creative or analytical. And through the network of social connections, their good ideas can be activated within your organization -- like innovation by proxy.
I am sure there are many of us who have tapped our personal networks for ideas, for pointers or for solutions. And sites like Facebook provide a neat way of segmenting and activating communities of interest through their group functions -- and while not perfect, they work.
In this Age of Conversation, participation is the name of the game. The art of competitive advantage now lies not in control but in activation ... and the best way to learn this is to open the doors and start to play.

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Gavin in VP & Principal Analyst with Constellation Research Group. He possesses extensive international experience in driving measurable outcomes via digital customer experience platforms, digital strategy and executing innovative content driven campaigns. With a background in enterprise technology innovation, digital strategy and customer engagement, Gavin connects the dots between disruptive technologies, enterprise governance and business leaders.

Most recently, Gavin led the customer experience, communication and social media programs for SAP's Premier Customer Network. And over the last 15 years, he has been at the forefront of innovative digital strategies for some of the world's leading companies - from IBM to Fujitsu - and on the agency side, leading the global digital strategy for McDonald's.

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  • by rogerd Mon Aug 27, 2007 via blog

    This issue really comes down to personal responsibility. If employees have access to any network, some will use it profitaby while on company time, and others will abuse it. Think about desktop publishing - a great boon for many, but a timesink for those who would spend an hour messing with fonts an internal memo. More to the point, LinkedIn may be another useful way to tap the expertise of others, to identify potential customers and partners, etc. But, employees may also surf it mindlessly or use it to hunt for a new job. I agree that companies should "open the doors." Hire good people, and give them all the tools they can use. Roger

  • by Jason Falls Mon Aug 27, 2007 via blog

    Agreed that companies should open the doors. If wasting of time is a concern, hire better employees. I'm knocking around the notion of Facebook as a personal networking sight now being invaded by those users wanting it for professional networking and how those worlds colliding effect the employement world. I'd love for anyone's input or insight on the post here at

  • by Ann Handley Mon Aug 27, 2007 via blog

    If it's time to block Facebook, it's probably an appropriate time to ban email, blogs, commerce and news sites, too... since those are a huge time-sink for most employees, I'd bet! That said, it seems to me that there is some indecision -- including on the part of Facebook itself -- about whether it's social networking or professional networking, or both. Is Telstra and the like also banning LinkedIn, for example? Much as you see FB as professional networking, Gavin -- and I agree with you, BTW, I'm not sure that's a widely held view.

  • by David Reich "my 2 cents" Mon Aug 27, 2007 via blog

    I agree with Roger that it should be a matter of personal responsibility. But I can understand why companies want to block things that could be seen as wasting employees' time, including card games on computers like Solitaire. But if people want to waste time, they'll find a way to fdo it, whether it's onbline or off.

  • by Drew McLellan Mon Aug 27, 2007 via blog

    It seems to me that the amount of time spent on Facebook pales in comparison to personal e-mail alone. If people want to goof off -- they will. They don't need no stinkin' social media to do that! And for what it's worth -- I think goofing off is a good thing. It is like cleansing the palette before the next course/chore. Drew

  • by RC Tank Tue Aug 28, 2007 via blog

    It seems to me that there is some indecision including on the part of Facebook itself about whether it's social networking or professional networking.

  • by John Thu Aug 30, 2007 via blog

    Staff need a little 'downtime' in the day to make their 'uptime' more productive. Whether using Facebook during this time works isn't something I could judge, but expecting an employee to be productive every minute of the day is unrealistic. Excessive use of social apps during work time suggests that the employee isn't terribly interested in their job. In this case, employers need to think a little more about their employee motivation rather than blocking access to Facebook. I'd argue that facebook is the effect, not the cause.

  • by Keith Thu Aug 30, 2007 via blog

    I think this is a brilliant thought. I guess the pivotal point is when the (for example) IT Manager talks to the HR Manager and says "Our staff are using Facebook too much" - there are two options... Firstly, BAN FACEBOOK. Big Brother stuff... but 1984 was 25 years ago. Secondly, ask "How do we set up a corporate group on Facebook". Get all the employees on Facebook, get them talking to each other about common problems that they can solve as a group. The best thing about knowing an employees habits is knowing how to best reach that employee! People just need to look at the positives instead of how they're missing out...

  • by AOK Mobile Phone Tue Jun 3, 2008 via blog

    If people want to goof off -- they will. They don't need no stinkin' social media to do that!

  • by silverwink Fri Sep 24, 2010 via blog

    Whether an application is blocked or not, self-control comes from within

    Ive been using .
    It uses a better method than blocking social media sites because it only monitors sites like Facebook during production hours. People/Employees still have the option to use it for a breather or during breaks really . Sometimes they use it for work too in helping reach decisions. For me its really unnecessary to block Facebook.

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