Making The Transition to a Social Business


Look, I’m all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I’m being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.” – Dwight Schrute – The Office, ABC-TV

Seriously… Tim Berners-Lee had no idea how huge his concoction was going to be when he first unleashed the Web on the world. Like the Internet itself, all he wanted to do was make it possible for researchers to share/update information with other researchers. Somewhere along the way, it got “a little” outta’ hand!

Well, not really. There’s just a little chasm between boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers.There’s also a little chasm between C-level execs, marketing/communications and workers. But there’s little to no chasm between work and home.

In “the company”:

– 93% own a cellphone, compared to 78% of industrial country adults

– 85% have a desktop computer, compared to 65% of all adults

– 61% own a laptop, compared to 39% of all adults

– 27% own a Blackberry, iPhone or similar device, compared to 13% of all adults

For the most part, all generations, work levels agree that these and other technologies have had a positive effect on their productivity.


Figure 2 – Technology Helps – Regardless of the generation, company personnel feel that today’s advanced technology has helped them become more productive in their jobs. Source – Kelly Services

They use their computers, use email and most even use an Internet browser. The majority (90%) believes the new technology; new software helps them perform better, faster. C-level executives see the social networking tools as a means of achieving marketing/sales success, but don’t think it’s for use by everyone.

Market Mining

In their minds, the social networking tools are useful for:

– acquiring new customers

– increasing customer retention

– increasing customer lifetime value

– launching new products/services

– increasing brand awareness

– expanding in new market areas

While PC/CE companies are more heavily involved than all businesses, C-level executives and firms aren’t exactly flooding the social networks.


Figure 3 – Socially Behind – While social network firms and users love to extol how much people are using the P2P services, they are only gaining modest traction with companies across the board. However, firms in the tech areas are gaining confidence in the use of services. Source – Burson-Marsteller

According to a study by Deloitte:

– 31% of CEOs are on Facebook (69% aren’t!)

– 30% use social networking as part of their business, operations strategy

– 23% use social networking as internal communications tool

– 18% have employee-created Facebook group

– 14% of CEOs have Twitter profile

– 13% post corporate videos on YouTube

– 11% have company-sponsored Facebook group

As you might expect, most of those who use the Internet at work are male, but the difference is almost a rounding error.


Figure 4 – Equally Connected – The percentage of men and women who use the Internet at work is almost 50/50. Analysts note that the slight weighting to men is probably not significant. Source – comScore Media Metrix

The same is true of social sites. Social netophiles claim that all of the new tools are the wave of the future, the way business will be run going forward. According to these forward-looking, click-savvy folks, social nets are the way organizations and customers will communicate, interact, collaborate, create, inform themselves, prioritize, organize, buy, sell. They assert it is the way it is happening now!


The problem is that over half of the executives surveyed by Deloitte said they have no official policy regarding social networks. Even more don’t have a clue what it is.

Behind the Curve

Deloitte research found:

– two of Fortune 100 CEOs have Twitter accounts (one has 7,000 followers, neither follows anyone)

– None have personal blogs

– 18 have LinkedIn profiles – all were PC/CE bosses, two listed their old titles, most had fewer than 50 connections

– 19 have personal Facebook pages- 80+% don’t have personal Facebook pages, few have many “friends,” majority have little/no information on their pages

– Majority are listed on Wikipedia even though info is old or lacking

Nearly all are spending 90+% of their time just trying to keep their business running “smoothly,” keeping the board/stockholders off their backs, juggling the “gotta’ haves” of the new generation of employees, and getting customers to pay for what was delivered! So chat sites are a really a low priority for them.

It’s probably a good thing then that most employees use the basic Internet tool – email – to get things done.


Figure 5 – Work Tool – While some firms feel Internet and social network access will reduce the productivity of employees, email – the workhorse of Internet connectivity – continues to be the most valued tool followed by information search and research. Even when people use social media, they often blur the lines of business/personal life. Source — comScore

Email today…it’s the way business gets done…get over how important your Twits are.

A LexisNexis survey showed:

– 2/3 of boomers feels smartphones contribute to a breakdown in workplace etiquette and using a laptop in a meeting is distracting (only half of Gen Yers agree)

– 17% of boomers believe using laptops, smartphones in personal meetings is efficient (1/3 of Gen Yers agree)

– 28% of boomers think blogging about work is OK (40% of Gen Yers agree)

That may be why some firms actually block users from using the social net. Honest! We’ve sent links to people and they’ve said they can’t access sites from their office systems. According to a study by the AMA (American Management Association), half of the firms ban visits to social net sites. Seems kinda’ dumb with so many people having a smartphone.


Figure 6 – Yeah…So – With the growing use of smartphones in people’s lives, being blocked by the company’s IT department isn’t much of a barrier for people who can tap into the Internet with their phone and use the Web.

Guess the boss doesn’t know they are able to do a “work around,” but hey it makes HR feel a little more comfortable. Reminds us of Michael Scott’s pep talk in The Office…“This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell outta here.”

Numbers Growing

But since Gen Yers won’t disappear from the business scene (boomers are fading ya’ know!), it may be time to understand it, deal with it, use it. After all, you probably hired him/her based on her Facebook profile right? Admit it, … you did!!!

As Mary Madden (Pew Internet & American Life Project) said, the tools will be incorporated into the work environment but it will be an “awkward hug.”

In some way, shape, form, adding the tools has to take place because our new fantastic tech tools – notebooks, netbooks, smartphones – do improve work productivity.


Figure 7 – Muddied Waters – There was a time when people had a pretty clear division between their office and personal lives. The Internet/Web have blurred those lines – many feel for the better – and you’re able to stay in touch almost anywhere. Source – Kelly Services

It would probably be more honest to say that these fantastic work tools have allowed work to slop over into your personal life. You know you check your smartphone just before you go to bed and the minute you get up. You handle “just a few” emails over the weekend and when you’re on holiday. That’s probably why the boss gave you a notebook and a smartphone (o.k., an iPhone or Blackberry).

You’re hooked on ‘em…and the man owns you – 24×7!  O.K., he/she wasn’t that diabolical, that evil, … right.

But the tools do help people with their work. They also add stress and new demands on their lives. The funny thing is, marketing and communications people look at all these rich new social networking tools as things they should “own,” “manage.”

Sure, it may take them three days to answer an email, but give ‘em a break. They’re busy doing what really counts, really matters…they’re Tweetin!!!! Email is so yesterday after all, and social networking stuff is…with it!!!

Despite the fact that management is concerned about security and employee productivity, most C-level executives feel social media will be a key strategy going forward. It’s the way for the company to build a stronger relationship with the customer, build brand reputation, launch new products/services, develop new markets.

Bad with the Good

The challenge is that social networking is a consumer technology that is taking the business world by storm. Cyberbadguys love the new stalking grounds. Malware is available from almost every site/every service. A well-meaning or disgruntled employee can tarnish a company’s/products image in 140 characters (or less).

But for the dedicated folks and social netophiles who venture into the social net world you have to remember one cardinal rule when answering a question…you respond, you own the question until the problem is solved or an adequate answer is provided.

Passing the individual on, passing the buck isn’t part of the equation. Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad…


Figure 8 – What Me Worry – Many executive boomers are amazed what newcomers to the business environment will put on their Facebook, LinkedIn and other profile sites. IT personnel are also concerned that the Web locations can make the systems/network vulnerable to security breaches and data corruption. But some folks just aren’t that worried. Source – Mad Magazine

When you get started with the social net, remember Dwight Schrute’s now prophetic observation…“Your pencils are creating a health hazard. I could fall and pierce an organ.”

One Response to The office online


  1. The office online | The TECHLife Post - Burson-Marsteller Watch

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