Ideas about the social networks in a professional context have traditionally been negative, with many companies seeing them as a distraction and a waste of their employees’ time. Indeed some firms initially restricted computer access to pages like Facebook. In response, and quite correctly, it’s been pointed out that there are any number of ways to waste time in the office and that if staff can’t access social networks via their computers they will simply do so in a less efficient way via their smartphones. In short, we’re all responsible adults, and as long as we’re doing our job, we should be left to decide how to use our time.
Increasingly, instead of blocking access to the social networks on company computers, fortunately now something of a rarity, more and more firms have come to see the social networks as a part of daily life, and their use by employees as a way of reflecting how in step with the times the company is: after all, if the social networks are part of the company’s communication strategy, it is somewhat incongruent if the same company doesn’t allow its employees to use them.
At the same time, the social networks are increasingly the way that we find out what is going on in the world, rather than through conventional media. The social networks have come to be seen as a kind of radar or teletype, a constant source of information that staff should not be deprived of if they are going to keep up with news affecting the sector they work in.
That said, few companies have taken the step of fully incorporating the social networks into their corporate culture. That might change soon. This week, LinkedIn announced a product to connect employees within a company so they can share information between them, a logical move for a business that at least since the acquisition of Pulse back in 2013 has been trying to project itself as much more than simply a data base for jobs, and instead to being the place where things happen: where you discover people with similar profiles to yours, where you find out what the media is saying about your company, or even what your boss is reading. In other words, LinkedIn is trying to exploit FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out.
Also this week, Facebook has unveiled Facebook at Work, a corporate communication tool using the social network. The potential significance of this goes way beyond the appropriateness of being able to discuss what is going on in your company while Mark Zuckerberg and his team are listening in… That said, when all is said and done, it seems Facebook knows us better than our friends and family, simply by studying what we do with it, what we share, what we look at, and what we Like. How much could be found out about a company, about its concerns, about the things on its radar, about its upcoming launches, just by looking at what its employees share or look at?
As said, the launch of Facebook or LinkedIn’s corporate services has implications beyond confidentiality or discretion: in reality, we’re talking here about the arrival of what we might call the “social company”, something we’ve discussed in previous articles.
If more and more we are what we share, then it is more and more important for companies to be able to apply that reality to the corporate environment, which means that businesses have to be able to create virtual water dispensers or coffee machines where employees can share information and put it to good use.
News is a perfect way to foster innovation, to turn on our radar, and to brainstorm. Companies have a tremendous opportunity here to inject life into information flows by blending the social with the professional, by creating circuits where things are read, in the process vastly improving information management practices away from the old methods of leaving a few newspapers lying around or sending out a daily roundup of corporate mentions in the media. The influence of the social networks on corporate communication is only going to grow. We’ve been seeing products like Yammer and Slack trying to improve corporate communications, and now we see LinkedIn and Facebook joining them, along with old hands at managing news management such as Feedly, which took over the spot left after the closure of Google Reader.
The workplace will soon be equipped with tools for reading, sharing and commenting on news; this means that companies need to “be in the world” and cannot afford to be disconnected from a reality that is moving at light speed; they need to be able to make good use of information and understand what is going on in their sector, based on the idea that many eyes see more than two.
If you haven’t considered any of this in the context of your company, then you need to give it some serious thought. Now. A social network and a mountain of shared information all commented on and discussed by your colleagues is about to appear on your computer screen in three, two, one…
This article was written by Enrique Dans from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.