Pros and Cons of Using Social Media at Work

As an online blogger and owner of a digital marketing agency, my day is filled with research, promotion, and making connections via social media. It’s a given that I will log into several social media accounts multiple times every day. Do I ever get lost in looking at photos, watching videos, reading status updates and liking posts?  Absolutely!  Is this productive? For the most part, probably not. 

You really have to discipline yourself when getting on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn to stay on task. Even checking my emails too often can be counterproductive. As a business owner, you have to ask yourself this question:  “Does this activity have the potential to make our company money?” If the answer is “no,” then you have to limit time spent gawking around when the reason you logged in was to promote a client or connect with a potential customer.

This article discusses how people are using social media on the job and the pros and cons of allowing this activity at your place of business. 

Here’s What People Are Using Social Media for at Work — The Motley Fool at Facebook’s Austin, Texas, office are probably not typical when it comes to using social media at work. Image source: Facebook.

While some companies have taken steps to ban the use of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), and other social media sites from the workplace, many have have not.

In some cases that leads to positive uses of the services — crowd-sourcing answers, making important connections, and finding ways to solve problems. More than half of the time, however, the reasons people use social media while at the office involve non-work purposes, according to recent press release from Pew Research Center based on 2014 data.

“These digital platforms offer the potential to enhance worker productivity by fostering connections with colleagues and resources around the globe,” wrote Pew’s Kenneth Olmstead, Cliff Lampe, and Nicole B. Ellison. “At the same time, employers might worry that employees are using these tools for non-work purposes while on the job or engaging in speech in public venues that might reflect poorly on their organization.”

It’s important to note that the Pew research does not make judgments about the answers given by the 2,003 American adults in the study. That means that just because the top reasons people are using social media while at work do not apply to their job does not necessarily mean their actions cause a loss of productivity. It’s possible, at least in theory, that workers’ using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites replaces potentially less-productive activities like taking smoke breaks or making phone calls.

The survey, according to Pew, asked Americans who are employed full- or part-time about eight different ways they might use social media while on the job and found that, in Pew’s words:

  • 34% use social media while at work to take a mental break from their job
  • 27% to connect with friends and family while at work
  • 24% to make or support professional connections
  • 20% to get information that helps them solve problems at work
  • 17% to build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers
  • 17% to learn about someone they work with
  • 12% to ask work-related questions of people outside their organization
  • 12% to ask such questions of people inside their organization

Social media has its risksSocial Media Collage

Even though 17% of people say they are using social media to build or strengthen their relationships with co-workers and the same amount use services like Facebook and Twitter to learn more about a co-worker, that can be a double-edged sword. What you learn on the the social sites may actually make you think less of a colleague.

“Some 14% of workers have found information on social media that has improved their professional opinion of a colleague; at the same time, a similar share (16%) have found information on social media that has lowered their professional opinion of a colleague,” wrote the researchers.

“Some 14% of workers have found information on social media that has improved their professional opinion of a colleague; at the same time, a similar share (16%) have found information on social media that has lowered their professional opinion of a colleague,” wrote the researchers.

Just over half of those surveyed (51%) said their office has rules regarding the use of social media in the office. That has some effect as workers at companies that have social media policies use those service less (30% versus 40% at companies that do not have such rules).  In addition, 20% of employees at companies with social media rules say they use social media to stay connected to family and friends while on the job, compared to 35% at offices that do not regulate its use.

Of course, Pew also reported that 77% of workers surveyed said that they use social media sites while at work regardless of their company’s policies. And, companies considering regulating the use of social media services should also take note that making rules about using sites like Facebook and Twitter for personal reasons can also make it less likely that employees will use them for positive, business-related reasons.

“Only 16% of workers whose companies regulate social media at work say they use social media while working to get information that’s helpful to their job, compared with 25% of those whose workplaces have no such regulations,” the researchers wrote.

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Daniel Kline owns shares of Facebook. He uses social media for work all the time and often goes to Facebook to find sources for articles. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Here’s What People Are Using Social Media for at Work — The Motley Fool

I have a funny feeling this person’s boss might decide that being “too efficient” translates into “you need more work to do.”

Not everyone feels it is a negative to use social media at work.  This article discusses the benefits of using social media to de-stress and bolster creativity.  If it helps to keep morale up, allows employees to relief some pressure and helps them think outside the box, it can be a positive thing as long as the right isn’t abused. 

Light Facebook Use At Work Could Boost Your Creativity you use Facebook at work? Good news, kind of: That may be the best way to cope with the grinding banality of office life.

A team of researchers in China has published a theoretical paper that draws attention to the use of social media at work as a means of self-therapy when young workers end up in jobs that aren’t right for them.

The research, which appeared in the most recent issue of the journal Employee Relations, suggests that the use of social media at work can be a positive thing, as long as it’s done in moderation. A little bit of personal social media can spur creativity and give workers an outlet for their stress, the researchers say. But too much social media use, as you might guess, makes people unproductive and often signals that the person feels alienated from his or her job.

Basically, the theory goes, students who go to good schools are under the impression that they will have great, fulfilling, fascinating jobs as soon as they hit the workforce. The reality, especially for more average students, is usually quite different. When their jobs turn out not to be fulfilling, young people often turn to various coping outlets — particularly social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — to help mitigate the stress that comes with their new jobs.

The researchers suggest that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A small amount of time spent on Facebook (or the social network of your choice) can actually reduce stress, increase creativity and make young people better at their jobs. But there’s a point — and it’s hard to say where exactly — past which Facebooking becomes a negative factor and adversely affects a person’s work.

Jhony Ng, one of the authors of the paper and a professor at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says he can’t quite define that threshold, but he knows it when he sees it.

“The line should be at where one’s non-work-related social media use does not affect their job performance,” Ng told The Huffington Post in an email.

In other words, if you spend some downtime on Twitter in between projects, it’s probably good for you. If you spend all afternoon on Facebook instead of finishing something your boss asked you to do, that’s probably bad.

In an unscientific Twitter poll conducted by this reporter, who was definitely not using social media to slack off, nearly half of the 2,028 respondents said they use social sites to cope with their jobs. Nearly one-quarter say they do not. Another 31 percent do not take Twitter polls seriously, judging by their response of “lol.”

Do you use social media at work as a coping mechanism for dealing with the job that you hate?

When young people feel stressed out at their dull, unfulfilling jobs, the authors speculate, it’s partly because no one ever told them when they were students about the kind of drudgery and indignity that usually permeate one’s early years in the workforce. “How many advisors tell students that the glamorous banking jobs they see in Hollywood movies will not be available to most of them?” the paper asks.

The paper only looks at young workers, which is deliberate. Young workers have less experience, and are therefore more likely to be in low-paying, low-prestige jobs that aren’t a good fit for them temperament- or skillwise. Plus, they simply haven’t yet adjusted to the realties of adult life, which for many people include too much work and too much stress for too little pay.

But Ng speculates that social media use will probably decrease as employees get older, “when young workers have truly lowered their career expectations over time, or when they have managed to find more fulfilling jobs.” Light Facebook Use At Work Could Boost Your Creativity


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