"Why do you think I would want my employees to waste their valuable time on Facebook?"This is a question that I have heard many times, expressed in different ways but always with the same subtext: “Social networking is about socializing with friends and it has no place at work - it affects employee productivity negatively” (it's always managers who express this kind of concern - I’ve never heard this kind of question from anyone that hasn’t a management position).
Anyway, I would answer something like this…
Facebook is a very popular social networking site that people primarily use for getting and keeping in touch with their friends, and making new friends. It might be that Facebook affects productivity negatively, or it might not have a negative effect – some studies even prove that some use might have a positive effect on employee productivity. In the end, it is all a matter of how and how much people use Facebook.
On the web, there are many other social networking sites on the web which primarily serve other purposes. You've probably heard about and might even be using LinkedIn, a social networking site that most people use to connect to and keep in touch with people for professional purposes, often people they think might be helpful in their future careers.
A social networking site that is intended to be used by employees within a business will without a doubt be used primarily for professional networking – networking that is in some way or another related to the work that people are employed to do. To make this clear, many organizations that implement social networking solutions actually prefer to use the term "professional networking" instead of "social networking".
Informal networks have always been important for getting work done. As knowledge work increases in importance and it is highly collaborative by nature, so does the importance of informal networks. Social networks are in a way just a description of these informal networks. In fact, a recent study by NEHRA (The Northeast Human Resources Association) from May 2009 proves that informal networks are linked to the success of change initiatives; 93% of successful change initiatives were led by leaders with strong or very strong personal networks, while 73% of less successful change initiatives were led by people described as having moderate or weak personal networks.
As a manager, you most likely understand the power of having a rich and strong professional network. It has helped you many times in your career and daily work. Most people, let's assume the vast majority, in your organization does not have the same opportunities and time to build and nurture a professional network as you do, or other managers, sales people and the like. Social networking sites - or professional networking sites if you like - provide the opportunity to build and nurture a professional network to a fraction of the cost of doing it in real life. It is in your interest that your employees build and nurture their professional networks since it allows them to deliver better results faster if they do.