Updated: Tuesday, 25th September 2018 @ 3:05pm

Social media in the workplace: Help or hinderance?

Social media in the workplace: Help or hinderance?

By Natasha David-Hilton

With social networking sites now having more users than almost any country’s population, has the urge to read about other people lives gone too far?

Social media not so long ago may have been seen as a passing fad but it has truly established itself as big business with companies like Twitter and Facebook being valued in the billions.

My own experience in the workplace is that sites such as Facebook and Twitter have had to be banned in order to recapture workers wandering minds.

It is understandable that companies believe social media is damaging their workers productivity.

The average user has 130 friends and spends more than 6 hours a day on the sites, but just how damaging is social networking to the workplace?

Manchester City Council has recently advertised for a new media communications manager whose responsibilities include managing their Facebook and Twitter pages.

A spokesman from the council said: “Communicating with our residents is central to what we do and we use all avenues available to do this.

Not only is this convenient it is also cheaper to the Council than the cost of face to face activity.”

This sparked outrage amongst some taxpayers and indeed some of the media who dubbed the £38,000 job ‘Facebook Boss.’

As a trainee journalist, following MP’s and celebrities on Twitter could mean a potential story, or provide a crucial way to fill your contacts book, but not all employers feel the same.

What is it that makes some companies such as my journalism training centre, News Associates, want to ban sites like Facebook, and others utilise it?

A senior executive who wished to remain nameless had recently banned social media from his offices. He said:  “I feel childish banning it but it is the right thing to do.

“People are just going on it because it is available, and they are becoming obsessed.”

Although he admitted to me that he could see the advantages of social media he quickly added that this was only if it was used in the right way.

But with social media evolving at such at a rapid pace, there doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ way of using the sites.

Of course the younger generation will argue that a day without Facebook is as detrimental as going 24 hours without breathing, but even for companies this is now becoming vital.

Personalised adverts at the side of profiles and promoted tweets mean that businesses can now essentially target over 500 million people.

Yet the drawbacks to hours of trawling through profiles and tweets for information or contacts is that customers are losing that personal touch. 

Companies may ban social media in their offices but that does not seem to stop them from using the sites to check on potential employees.

However, seeing candidates in various states of disarray might not be what they’re looking for.

Seeing both sides of the argument was Alison Hastings, member for England on the BBC Trust, a Vice President of the British Board of Film Classification and previously a member of the Press Complaints Commission.

She warned: “I would be very careful about what content people have on their Facebook or other pages. “

But she also admitted to me: “As an employer if I was deciding between two candidates I would be checking their pages.”

With over 500 million, users Facebook has a larger population than any country except India and China. And it is estimated that at the current rate, by 2011 Facebook will have 630 million users.

Even the British Monarchy are now a part of the social media scene, having recently added Facebook to their list of networking profiles.

A spokesman for the British Monarchy said: “The idea behind joining Facebook was to engage with a younger and wider audience.”

He added that Facebook was the natural next step with the Monarchy having already joined Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

“It is important for people to understand what exactly it is that the Monarch does and how exactly the Monarchy works,” he explained.

It seems that social media now has evolved from originally being an instant way to connect with friends and family to being a platform for personalised advertising and marketing.

Manchester United have not only banned their players from using the sites, but have actively shut down several star’s profiles.

They went so far as to issue a statement saying: “The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites.

“Fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism.”

Perhaps it was the uncontrollable public outbursts that frightened the football bosses, but surely as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

I’m not sure quite how much United would agree with that but can they really justify removing a tangible way for their stars to connect with fans?

Twitter and Facebook provide the public with a rare window into celebrities’ lives, thoughts and whereabouts, and many people seem to be excited to hear of Alan Carr syncing his I-pod to his computer, or Holly Willoughby eating a sandwich.

These insights, however dull some may find them, are giving celebrities the platform to connect with a massive audience, and by rejecting or being wary of these possibilities, are companies missing a valuable or even necessary tool?

Those who thought the initial fad of social media would disappear must be by now frantically uploading their profile pictures.

As for companies, it is yet to be seen just how accepting they will be of social media and all its intricacies but some might say what do they have to lose?