The Risks of Using Social Media in Business

As originally published in the American City Business Journals
About 1.72 hours. This is how much time the average person spends on social media each and every day.
That amount of time, 1.72, hours also happens to make up more than one-fifth of the typical eight-hour work day. Multiply this over a five-day week, and watch as a full day of work suddenly disappears.
To many business owners, this statistic is enough to make them swear off social media; why open the door to a distraction that could impact your company’s productivity so drastically?
While I understand this concern completely, I’d caution you against paying them too much heed. In fact, I’d hold that distancing yourself from this sort of collaborative communication actually poses a far greater risk to your company’s long-term success than Facebook or Instagram ever could.

What we risk by rejecting these platforms

When we take a moment to zoom out, the larger point is this: Young professionals (yes, the famed millennials) now make up the majority of the workforce in the United States.
This means that whether or not you’re actively recruiting these folks today, you aren’t going to have much choice tomorrow; soon enough your employees and your clients are going to be younger and programmed with a unique set of expectations.
A key expectation? Access to the same sort of collaborative communication that social media has been fostering and ingraining for the past decade.
According to a Queens University of Charlotte study, 49 percent of young professionals cited the desire for social tools to enable collaboration, and 40 percent said they would pay out-of-pocket to get them.
Want some more stats? A study of millennials from 75 countries commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that:

  • 59 percent of milllennials said an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job
  • 78 percent said access to technology they like to use makes them more effective at work
  • 41 percent said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone

The moral of the story is that those in their 20s and 30s have been trained to communicate instantly, freely, and within forums that offer just as immediate feedback. Therefore, the companies that adopt this same approach with their collaboration will naturally be a lot more attractive to this new generation of talent.
Think of it as if your older employees were given the choice between working for (or with) a company that uses email to communicate, or a company that only allows typewritten memos or faxes. They’re going to gravitate toward the former, and they’re going to be a whole lot more effective once they get there.
So what are our companies to do in preparation? Look to social media as our guide, of course!
Embrace instant messaging, embrace video chat, and embrace whatever other collaboration tools will offer your workforce more flexible and efficient communication. Work with your IT team to identify and vet the right packages for you, roll them out to your staff, and wrap them into your culture.
That, or wait until your competition does.