Social media can help your career and your business stay on track, Cara Jenkin writes
WORKERS are being smarter, more responsible and taking advantage of social media technologies to further their career and are more productive for it.
But many employers are falling further behind the times, missing out on opportunities and stunting the growth of their workers and their organisation, by refusing or restricting use of social media.
One in five people across the world now are connected through social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, blogs or other sites.
Rather than it being a time waster, social media increasingly is found to boost the productivity, ability and reputation of staff.
Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of workers would not discuss a work-related matter on social media, an increase from 50 per cent in 2010, Clearswift’s annual Worklife Web 2011 report reveals.
It also finds 20 per cent of workers believe social media makes them better at their job.
Yet its research finds one in three employers now block social media use, up from 20 per cent in 2010.
Research at the University of Melbourne also finds workers who surf the internet for fun during working hours are 9 per cent more productive than those who do not.
Social media consultant Michelle Prak says social media websites are the most popular websites in Australia.
The trend for people to spend chunks of their day on social media, rather than just ‘‘ pop into very quickly and occasionally’’ as they do with other websites, makes it a great platform for the savvy worker to use to further their career, she says. ‘‘ People are catching on to the fact that it can have a benefit to a career,’’ Prak says.
As director of her own social media consultancy, Prakky, she finds many employers have been wary of the technology.
It is perhaps because of negative impressions generated when social media initially took off and staff acted irresponsibly, sometimes making openly derogatory comments about their employer or wasting time online.
Workers have become more aware of the pitfalls.
As well, 55 per cent of employers now have social media policies.
Prak encourages employers to unblock social media sites so staff and customers can interact with each other and the organisation.
She says networking long has been a key tool for workers and employers to grow professionally by attending events and showing their face and business cards to contacts.
Now, through social media, it can be done anywhere there’s a laptop and at any time of the day.
On Twitter, the biggest growing social media tool, interaction between followers and tweeters increasingly is leading to work relationships.
‘‘ Social media is where you find your next customer . . . or your next job because you’ve been talking to someone for so long,’’ Prak says.
‘‘ They trust you and warm to you, rather than being sent a CV or cold calling. People tend to think of you and remember your name.’’
Social media also is an important tool for personal branding. Workers can control what photos appear in online, steering employers to pictures of them volunteering, for example, to paint themselves in a positive light.
Some employers are choosing to embrace the possibilities of social media.
The Social PR Consultancy director Sarah Thomas says small companies are plugging into social media at a faster rate than big business.
‘‘ It’s slow for bigger organisations to make the shift to understanding how the more social personal networks like Facebook and Twitter can benefit business,’’ Thomas says.
‘‘ It’s taking a forward thinking organisation to understand how they can use and embrace social media in their organisation.’’
She says it usually takes a social media ‘‘ champion’’ high up on the corporate ladder for social media to be embraced.
Many senior staff don’t understand the benefits of social media platforms, despite many more junior staff being in the know.
‘‘ There’s so many people on social media these days. (Australians) are the highest users of social media in the world,’’ Thomas says.
‘‘ They need to understand their customers. One in two of their customers, most likely, are using social media.
‘‘ It makes sense to be where these customers are spending so much time.
‘‘ People using social media are not there to communicate. They are willing to like a business page most of the time so they can access exclusives and specials, insights to when their next sale is going to be.’’
Almost half, or 43 per cent, of those online are a fan or follow a brand. ‘‘ There’s been a shift from using the platform as a job hunting tool,’’ Thomas says.
‘‘ It can be used as a tool from a business point of view.
‘‘ They keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry and have insight into what your competitors are up to.’’