[Maybe Twitter is an evil time suck. Maybe it's a helpful tool.]
For those that didn’t read my last blog (Which, I believe, is everyone but my mom and the guy who tweeted me about a typo), I touched on why business owners should tear down their firewalls to free up employees to see YouTube, which has a business value that hasn’t been fully realized.
This time around I think we should touch on the other sites that are often banned or looked down upon at work: Twitter and Facebook.
I work in multi-media, so we use Twitter and Facebook to share content, but I do empathize with the fact that having employees follow Justin Bieber mania on Twitter seems like a complete time suck. To me, though, I see people using limited amounts of social media at work to be akin to employees stopping to talk at the water cooler.
For years business owners have been leery of people hanging by the water cooler discussing weekend plans and how much of a jerk said boss has been about the Higgins account. But innovation and creativity very rarely happen to the employee chained to a desk. Conversation, be it in person or over the Internet, sparks ideas and energy.
I’m not promoting the idea of having employees spend 30 hours per week on social media, but is someone spending 15 minutes on Twitter to follow the hot news story going to put you out of business? I would argue that the opposite would happen, as I see three distinct benefits to use of some social media at work.
- Innovation is everywhere. Next week I’ll touch more on the success of online companies like Icanhascheezburger.com, but the fact of the matter is people are doing things online that pwn* what you’re doing. The next great idea for streamlining process or creating an online timeline trackable for all your offices is out there. I found PivotalTracker from a friend on Facebook and it became my key project management tool.
- Distractions are good. I dig going full speed ahead at work, but some of my most productive days at the office aren’t at the office. It’s an old cliché that the small business person has epiphanies at midnight, but there’s good sense to that idea: When you free your mind from the stress of right now, right now, right now you have time to process what’s happening. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck and a good article from someone I follow on Twitter hits my reset button and pushes me in a new direction. Don’t believe me? Check out this piece from a publication I heart, ‘Wired.’
- Keeping up with competition. I mentioned the value in seeing what other people are doing for innovation, but another point of fact is that the online market share created by social media is growing, and if your competition beat you to that space, then you’re behind. Sorry to be the one to tell you that.
Next time: I get that the Internet is important to people under 40, but it doesn’t matter to my business, right?
*Don’t know what pwn means? Don’t worry. I’ll be putting together a blog on the crazy Internet words kids today are using. It will make you go w00t! (Update: I did it.)
Mike Cottrill is the manager for online operations at Smart Business. His blog posts are based on common objections and questions business leaders have about adapting to social media and Web technology. You can follow him on Twitter @mrcottrill or connect with him on his LinkedIn page, mentioning this blog.