Wednesday, October 28, 2009
We're not playin' around: E-networking means business, not socializing
Posted by John Keller
All of us conducting business on E-networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and the others are running into a problem: a growing number of companies and other organizations are coming up with policies that ban the use of so-called "social networking" while at work. While it's difficult to characterize the depth of this mistake, we have ourselves at least partially to blame.
Why us? Because we use the poisonous term "social networking," which to the uninitiated means socializing, not working. We've all seen the cute stories in the press about Twitter, Facebook, etc., and with that kind of media play, who could blame many in the business community who perceive activity on these sites as play time, not work time?
Well, it's time to put a stop to this, and the first thing we can do is quit using the term "social networking" when describing the use of E-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for business. Start using a term that means business, like E-networking, business networking, or even B-netting. Personally, I use E-networking to describe how I push out editorial content and commentary related to Military & Aerospace Electronics on Twitter and Facebook. I won't use that other term that contains the "s-word."
I wish I had started doing this earlier, because there are distressing trends on the horizon. Our own internal audience-development research here at Military & Aerospace Electronics indicates that companies we serve with information every day have policies in place, or are contemplating policies, to prevent their employees from using E-networking tools while at the office.
I also run into stories like this one in the online edition of The Daily Mirror newspaper in London, headlined "Twitter and Facebook cost firms millions as employees waste time (http://bit.ly/11cAVw)," and this survey of 1,400 chief information officers that indicates 54 percent of companies block the use of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace at work (http://bit.ly/42XuA9).
This is all based on the false assumption that time spent on E-networking is wasted time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Companies might be able to fight E-networking for a while, but doing so is a lot like the last dinosaurs eating the first mammals. You might prevail today, but time is not on your side.
I understand that it can be exhausting conducting business today in a world that changes not just daily, but hourly. E-networking is a profoundly disruptive technology; it's upsetting, frustrating, and bewildering, but it also will take us to the next step in electronic communications. We don't have much say in the matter; this is the way it's going whether we embrace E-networking or not. I think the experts are right who predict that conventional e-mail will be obsolete within the next decade, replaced by E-networking technology and whatever it leads to.
If we're going to keep pace, then the time to get on board with E-networking in the workplace is now -- not tomorrow. Our business allies and competitors are amassing large followings of important contacts in E-networking. These lists of E-networking contacts are every bit as important as our customer e-mail and subscriber lists. As we gather a critical mass of important business contacts as followers, friends, fans, whatever, we can control our business communications like never before.
This has tremendous implications for publishing, public relations, retail, and all kinds of business-to-business ventures; any business that must communicate with its customers to succeed will rely on E-networking technology, if not now, then eventually. If business fails to get on board now, their learning curve will be very steep once they finally realize what they have to do. Companies that are holding back on E-networking must understand that their competitors are not ...
... which leads me back to this notion of banning E-networking in the workplace. It's kind of like banning the telephone because of its potential for abuse. Just like a telephone, E-networking is a critical business tool today, and will grow even more so in the future.
E-networking represents a fast-moving stream of often-crucial business information that is available to whomever dips into it. It just doesn't make any sense to keep this information source away from employees who potentially could make the best use of it. You can bet your competitors aren't, and your customers are going to notice.
If you're tentative about E-networking, come on in; the water's fine.
John Keller is chief editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics, a PennWell publishing franchise consisting of an active Website, e-newsletters, print magazine, and trade shows, which is based in Nashua, N.H. Contact Military & Aerospace Electronics online at www.milaero.com, on Twitter at @jkeller1959 and #milaero, and on Facebook at http://bit.ly/1VGM0Q. If you're hopeless, you could even e-mail John Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to Chris Burke, president of BtB Marketing Communications, who helped me brainstorm for this piece. Chris tweets on Twitter at @CBurkeBtB.