Wasting time on the company dime? Build a social strategy for internal audiences

How much time to do you spend on Facebook? How about Twitter?

As a communications professional, probably quite a bit of time. According to Facebook’s IPO filing earlier this year, the average Facebook user spends more than 12 minutes a day using its site. That does not include time spent using Facebook’s mobile apps.

According to ComScore, Americans are spending hours and hours every month on social media sites like Pinterest (1 hour and 17 minutes), Twitter (36 minutes), LinkedIn (17 minutes) and even poor Google Plus (6 minutes).

While we talk a lot as communicators about what that means to our external marketing efforts, time spent on social media is becoming a serious issue for transportation agencies concerned about how their employees are spending their days. Are they wasting time on social media, or are they being more efficient?

A new infographic from LearnStuff.com makes the case that social media is destroying employee productivity. They argue that 1-in-10 workers spend more “time on the internet” than they do working (although not defining what that means). And, they argue that workers are interrupted every 10.5 minutes by things like instant messages, tweets and Facebook messages. When they are interrupted, it takes workers 23 minutes to get back to work. That means poor workers only get in about zero minutes of work a day.

Meanwhile, a study released last year claims that recent college grads prefer access to social media in the workplace over access to a higher salary. Proponents of social media access in the work place argue that it is actually good for business – improving morale, collaboration and transparency. A report from SilkRoad Talent Talk, “State of Social Technology and Talent Management,” reports that more than 67% of companies surveyed are driving toward ¬†some kind of internal social technology.

So which is it? Are we completely lost to our social technologies without hope of productivity in the workplace? Should we ban Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from our work computers completely and get back to our TPS reports?

I believe we cannot go back to days of cover memos and hard copies of interoffice mail. That ship has sailed. We are a wired (or wireless) society and increasingly people are on the move. Blackberries freed us from our email tether and smartphones made us efficient communicators wherever we are. Banning social media from work computers will not keep people from checking Facebook or Twitter on their smartphones and tablet devices.

Indeed, the challenge today is finding ways to incorporate these tools into our workplace in a way that can leverage their tremendous communications capabilities. Here are a couple of things to consider.

  • Are you effectively communicating with your internal audience? I can guarantee you that internal audiences are the most overlooked stakeholder groups for most outreach campaigns. Just answer this question: Where do your employees go to find out the latest communication messages? Is it easy to find and regularly updated?
  • If you’re worried about the perception that government workers are spending time on Facebook, there are other tools out there to consider. Yammer.com has a Facebook-like design that is inexpensive. Or, look to see if there are technology solutions that can plug in to whatever intranet your organization uses.
  • Get the support of the IT group. One of the most common complaints from transportation communications experts is that they find IT folks to be a barrier to innovation. Really, IT experts have concerns of their own – bandwidth, security, licensing – that we in communications do not always understand. Build your partnership with IT and you will find a solution that works.

There is not a doubt in my mind that we must embrace the integration of social media within our workplace, same as we needed to develop a plan in the 1960’s around who got to have a telephone in their office.

Imagine what that must have been like having a phone ringing all day long. It is a wonder anything got done.

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