Experts & Insiders 6/13/2011

E&I: How to Manage the Social Media Time Suck

Dana Swanson's Story

E&I: How to Manage the Social Media Time Suck

social media-1I’ve seen a few articles spring up lately discussing how social media is costing businesses big money each year in lost productivity. Some articles estimate it’s upwards of $10,000 per employee, per year. First off, this struck me as funny, since social media is such a large part of what I do. In my case it’s literally my job to pay attention to these “distractions”, but if you’re not in marketing or PR, how is the constant influx of messages, pop windows and blinking boxes effecting your work? If you’re a CEO or a manager of a team of employees, these numbers and questions can sending you running to the IT department to start blocking sites and filtering e-mails. However, these days, that’s probably going to do little to help the issue, since easy access to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and more is available in the form of a tiny computer in many of your employee’s pockets and purses. We’ve arrived at a time where social media is not only here to stay, but also easier to access than ever, so what is a manager or boss to do?

#1 – Give your employees a reason not to be distracted. Consistent, challenging work combined with solid incentives for finishing or reaching goals provides intrinsic motivation to ignore those gnawing distractions until the job is done. Which leads me to number two….how do you know when the job is done?
#2 – Set clear goals and outline productivity. If you’re measuring productivity by specific standards and criteria, it becomes irrelevant who posted a status update mid-work day. By setting goals and deadlines, then reaching them, you’ll know your team is on track without policing everyone’s browsing history. So, if things are getting done, including the occasional post-meeting tweet, what’s there left to do?
#3 – Use it to your advantage. With the average person having 120 facebook friends (and generally far more in younger demographics) a company with 50 employees can easily have a captive audience of 6,000 right at their fingertips. No matter what you’re making or selling, there’s probably someone in that network that could benefit from you, or a way you could benefit from them. From market research to sourcing, to hiring, there’s a lot of ways to use social circles to your advantage.

Assimilating this new and rapidly growing entity vaguely titled “social media” into personal and work lives is of course no easy task. But at the same time, is checking into Facebook much different than a crossword puzzle stashed in a desk drawer? And how is time spent pondering 27 across any different from daydreams of perfect waves and traveling the world? Distractions are not new, but what is, is the fact that one well worded funny tweet can gain a brand great exposure and I don’t even have to tell you the power of one well done video short. The times may have changed, but goofing off, wasting company time and getting the job done hasn’t. So how do you manage the social media time suck? You dive in, get your hands dirty and embrace the somewhat creepy, intimidating, yet amazing world that is social media. Make it work for you and your employees and everyone, including your company, will be better for it in the end.