Monday, April 19, 2010

Futurelab: Facebook Visited Twice as Often as Google in the Workplace (and Why You Shouldn’t Ban Social Media at Work)

Employees are visiting Facebook more than any other site when they are at work, and twice as often as the second most visited site, Google. Research out this week from Network Box, a Managed Security Services company, shows that visits to the social network accounted for 6.8% of all workplace traffic in Q1 2010, exactly twice the 3.4% of all traffic that went to Google.

The research is based on analysing 13 billion URLs visited by a sample of workplaces in Q1 2010 and the company behind the research suggest that they underline the fact that IT Managers should be concerned about the amount of time employees are spending on social networks at work.

But the findings are not as clear-cut as this. And they should not be used to add weight to the misguided corporate policy of banning all access to social networks at work.
People are more likely to access Facebook out of work than in work

In March we saw Facebook become the most visited site in the US. With 7.1% of all web traffic (from workplaces, home and all other locations) going to Facebook. A smaller proportion of workplace traffic goes to Facebook than the average for all traffic. And, whilst we don’t have this data, we can infer that traffic from home must be much higher to average in this way.

People are visiting Facebook at work – but are visiting the site less often at work than out of work.
People are much more likely to visit other sites

By saying that Facebook is the most visited site from the workplace hides the fact that many many other sites are visited. In fact people are almost 20 times more likely to be visiting a site that is not Facebook. And because different people use the internet for different things to do different jobs it is unlikely that there are many websites that are common to them all. A law firm might ind that its employees spend the overwhelming majority if their time on legal journals and regulation websites, for example. But the sites visited in an Estate Agency or FMCG business would be very different. By aggregating all of these different people, doing different things in different industries there are likely to be very few common sites.

And let’s not forget that 6.8% of all web traffic is still quite small and could easily all take place during a lunch hour.
Social media sites are not necessarily bad

There is an assumption in some workplaces that social media and social networking sites are necessarily bad for employees. I have seen some internal social media policies that state “We should discourage employees from using social media”. This is dangerous and also denies the benefit that social media can bring to any organisation. Social media is becoming increasingly important for any business – wanting to work with and engage stakeholders, customers and even employees themselves online.

Social media can be scary – and even business needs to write a social media policy. But the basis of this should not be banning things but encouraging people to use things. Your employees are already talking about your company in social media, talking to customers and representing you. Whether you know it or not and whether you want them to or not. The best approach is not to ban people but to give them training. To tell them what is reasonable and what is not and to encourage them to represent the business appropriately online.

Firms don’t ban employees from talking to other people, answering the phone or responding to emails. But they do give them training on how to do these things and what they should, and shouldn’t, say. They should take this approach to social media and not one that bans things.
Most firms are anxious because they have no social media policy

Most firms are anxious about the amount of time employees are spending on social media sites for two reasons:

* They don’t understand what they are doing on the sites
* They have no policy to deal with it

The simplest thing any business should do is to write a social media policy, and to write one that encourages people to use and to represent themselves and the firm in social media in the right way. The policy should not ban, but should offer training. Employees are using social media already and talking about their employer the work that they do. They should be your best brand advocates online, but banning social media will not achieve this.

Research by Manpower earlier this year showed that 80% of firms have no social media policy. For me this is the biggest concern, not the amount of time people are spending on certain sites relative to other sites.
Does your firm not have a social media policy?

If your firm is one of the 80% without a social media policy then take a look at our previous posts on:

* Why every business needs a social media policy
* How to write your firm’s social media policy
* What to do once your firm’s social media policy is written

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