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Leveraging Social Networking for Competitive Advantage

Leveraging Social Networking for Competitive Advantage

It's all the rage. Or one could say it's all the "Twitter." If you are, "Linkedin" or have a ’Facebook’ account, it can all be very exciting. You might as well, “Flickr” and HR, HR Management, HR Strategies, HR Solutions, Employee Engagementdon’t forget to, ‘YouTube.”  New technology can take us by storm and off guard if we are not watching those trends closely. But now that the concept of social networking is here, the question is what is it and how can it be leveraged in the workplace to create a competitive advantage?

What is social networking?

Social networking is an online phenomenon where people can connect and collaborate, personally and professionally. It connects communities of people who share the same interests, hobbies, activities, and/or profession. It makes it possible for people to share ideas without the restriction of physical, geographical, and time boundaries. Some call it technology with an attitude.

Some of the most popular social networking sites are:

Twitter - Twitter enables someone to actively and quickly update activities, events, and quick memos instantly at the workplace at any time of the day.  It is easy to use.
LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a large social network used by professionals. The online tool makes it easy to search out other professionals and recruiters. It leverages the social networking playing fields regarding professional backgrounds.
Facebook - Facebook provides a vast amount of networking capabilities like searching for friends and posting information in creative ways.

Flickr – Flickr is a popular tool to share pictures with co-workers, as well as take advantage of helpful plug-ins.

YouTube – YouTube can send out information, giving out tutorials or events in a professional manner for the workplace.

Pros and cons of social networking in the workplace

If social networking tools were adopted appropriately there can be several advantages.
Advantages include:
  1. Improved customer relationships,
  2. Improved employee relations and employee engagement,
  3. Faster cycle times,
  4. Enhanced brand image,
  5. A better capture of creative and innovative ideas, and
  6. Identification of new business service lines.
  7. Improved employee development initiatives
  8. Improve organizational communication.
  9. Improve recruitment efforts at a lower cost.
  10. Increased productivity.
However there is another side to that coin – the disadvantages. The disadvantages of social networking in the workplace include:
  1. Increased transparency – if something goes wrong, everyone will know about it and potentially take it out of context.
  2. Confidentiality issues – collaboration on a larger scale also poses a wider confidentiality risk. While employees may be learning ideas from other companies, those other companies are also learning how your company operates.
  3. Loss of control on how a company is perceived by others – The rumor mill is hard to control as it is, but with social networking the rumor mill just became bigger and that much more harder to control.
  4. Abuse – some may abuse the use of the tool. Some people may take advantage of the social aspect of it that goes beyond the scope of the intent.
Leveraging social networking for a competitive advantage
Early studies seem to indicate that social networking in the workplace increases productivity and efficiency. In addition, surveys show that the top five social networking tools currently being used by companies in Europe are:
  1. Companies’ own collaboration sites on intranets (39%)
  2. Internal forums within the company (20%)
  3. Company-produced video material shared on intranets (16%)
  4. Online social networks, like LinkedIn, Facebook etc (15%)
  5. External collaboration sites on the web and internal blogging sites (both 11%)
After understanding the advantages and disadvantages, a savvy employer can leverage this technology to their advantage. To overcome the disadvantages information technology and human resource departments can implement protocols such as confidentiality guidelines and policies. Training employees to ensure they understand and agree with the expectations of these tools is also important. In addition, employers can monitor progress, ensure moderation, and make adjustments as needed.  Of course it is a good idea to connect with legal counsel to ensure policies are sound in the event of a breach in protocols.
However, let’s face it. Technology has a way of introducing cultural changes in the workplace that are long term in nature. If that were not the case, we would not be using PCs today and you would not be reading this article right now. Ultimately the workplaces who can successfully surf the social networking tide can yield competitive advantage benefits.

 

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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite (www.hrcsuite.com). HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

One Comment


  1. Hello Tresha. I came across your comments when searching for experiences with Shared Services. This article is great in that for me it highlights the fast passed change to channels of communication. I would add a note to the last sentence to point out that the network surfing done must be planned to ultimately return tangible benefits to a company. They may be long or short term but at least there be a target. I say this because I am often amazed at the time some organisations spend on social networking but they have no strategy as to how to turn the time spent and relationships they have into benefits for a company eg financial return. I believe some organisations participation is based on the false belief if I participate I will get a return when without an effective strategy it is not true. Surfing without reward.Thank you for the article. Bruce

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