Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ASSOCHAM Report Frowns on Social Networking...Misses The Plot

Industry-body ASSOCHAM has recently released a report on the damage to business due to misuse of social networking sites during office hours. The association has arrived at a fairly precise figure of "12.5% of productivity of human resource in corporate sector is misappropriated each day since a vast majority of them while away their time accessing social networking sites during office hours."

The report, prepared by the ASSOCHAM's Social Development Foundation, has other gems to offer including this:"Almost each day, an average corporate employee spend an hour, gluing to various social networking sites such as Orkut, Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin etc. for romancing or otherwise drive (sic) some satisfaction out of it. With this averagecorporate employee's each day working is reduced by an hour from 8 hour to 7 hour."

The industry body surveyed close to 4000 employees across a fairly wide swathe of the country, covering both the metros and smaller towns. Age-wise employees profiled ranged from 21 to 60 years. Not surprisingly the survey points to a growing affinity among the younger crowd to spend more time on the networking sites (93%), while the older generation prefers to spend more time on news sites (73%). Thereport further goes on to state that companies are dealing with the phenomenon in a variety of way, including banning the sites altogether. Some other companies allow networking sites, only forbusiness...but the report is silent on how the companies monitor if the messaging happening is for business or personal reasons.

Apart from the fantastic deduction on romance this report also goes on to make the claim that "84% of Internet users in metropolitan show signs of Internet addiction - they don’t take breaks at appropriate times, they spend more than a ‘normal’ amount of time online, and can get irritable if they are interrupted while surfing." While net addiction is a workplace reality, claiming 84% of all office workers in metros to have the addiction is to state simply that it is now an epidemic. This is far from the truth. The negative bias of thereport towards social networking does not do justice to the business potential of this phenomenon.

Social networking is "the" trend of 2009. Like all trends this one too has positives and negatives. On the positive side, it has never been easier to keep in touch with colleagues going way back when. Most of us realize the need to actively network as part of our professional lives. The ability to do it and to solvebusiness problems right from your desktop should actually be viewed as a great time-saver. For example: social networking is now emerging as one of the best ways to recruit talent. Companies like Cadbury's, Diageo and others are putting the social networking phenomenon to great use in their marketing campaigns. Our sister publication Forbes India recently introduced the Twinterview--which is interviews via twitter. Corporates the world over are figuring out interesting and innovative solutions on social networking to a whole host of issues dealing with human resources, marketing, brand-building...you name it.

One big advantage with social networking is that, unlike other web and new media phenomena, it does not come with a age-restricter. Social networking cuts across age groups and appeals to the widest swath of online population. This is not something that should be frowned upon. Uni-dimensional reports like these only serve to create a negative impression in corporate minds about a phenomenon most CXO's are grappling to try and work out. This could be detrimental to the organization in the long run.

I believe social networking presents both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is unparalleled in its ability to reach out to interest groups in the shortest most convenient way. The challenge is age-old, how to get your employees to work while at work. If you take away their social networking, are you really sure they will spend that extra hour on work?

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