The use of social networking tools hasn't exactly taken off in the workplace as many employers are banning the use of Facebook, MySpace and other online communities as a time waster. However, one company is aggressively asking employees to use Facebook to build relationships with each other and customers. Will it work?


Recently, Business Week had a brief article titled, "Now Social Networking Fridays" that described one company's attempt at using social networking tools to improve recruiting, networking and even employee morale. The company in question, Serena Software, has launched "Facebook Fridays" where employees are asked to spend one hour each Friday to "update their profiles, collaborate with colleagues and clients, and recruit for Serena."

The goal of Facebook Fridays, according to SVP Rene Bonvanie, is to "get people to communicate and collaborate more." On the whole, this doesn't seem like a bad idea, especially if your community and customers are mostly online.

However, for a guy like me that already spends 50+ hours on the computer each week, I'd like to suggest some balance to the idea of spending an hour on a social networking site.

Assuming there is true business value derived from this activity (and it's a big assumption that employees aren't just goofing off) I'd like to propose some alternate ideas for Facebook Fridays:

* Improve your public speaking, communication and leadership skills by joining a weekly Toastmasters meeting.
* Spend the hour each week networking at a local Rotary, Lions or other similar club
* Volunteer for a non-profit in a leadership capacity, or just volunteer. There's great opportunities to network and build bridges with community leaders and in most cases, you can get away with volunteering an hour a week.
* Join a local professional's organization or special interest group in your industry or discipline. An example might be the Bay Area's Wireless Users Group.
* Join a local American Marketing Association chapter for the networking and learning opportunities
* Spend the hour on a new research topic, experiment, or "just thinking"-- similar to a policy Google has in place
* Worse case scenario, go low tech. Pick up one of those archaic things, I think they're called a telephone, call a customer and inquire about his or her kids, golf game, hobbies or anything of substance.

Please note, I'm not a technology Luddite (I've been in the information technology field for 15 years), nor am I anti Web 2.0.

I do believe, however, that when it comes to networking, recruiting, and connecting–especially building first-time relationships, there's no substitute for in-person or at the very least–telephone meetings.

* Are "FaceBook Fridays," as conceived by Serena Software, frivolous?
* If you worked at Serena Software, what alternative suggestions (if any) might you offer to CEO Jeremy Burton?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.