Gran Canaria - Guayadeque in the WinterA few days back my good friend, the always inspiring and thought provoking, Dan Pontefract, put together a rather interesting blog post which is just a beautiful story of a conversation he recently had that I could see myself behave and react pretty much in the same way that he did. In “Should Companies Allow Facebook at Work?” he comes to talk about that number of companies out there who, still, in 2013!, are blocking the use of social networking tools for their employees, so that they wouldn’t waste time at work, or goof around unnecessarily. Yes, still today in 2013, and despite the huge impact of social technologies in our society, there are businesses out there that seem to be rather happy with shooting themselves in their feet. Isn’t it time that we finally, at long last, wake up and embrace the inevitable? Social Networking is here to stay and for a long while even. 

In fact, in a recent blog post I mentioned how perhaps if there would be a major challenge for the corporate world of today with regards to social media tools is not how some of those firms keep blocking their use, but it’s more the assumption from knowledge workers that if they get blocked, like they are doing, apparently, right as we speak, they are receiving a significantly loud and clear message from their employers that all of these social tools are to be used for private and personal reasons. And they do that eventually, resulting in people switching off the work context of living social and just apply it to how they do interact with their family members, friends, relatives and acquaintances. Essentially, personal, private use. 

A missed opportunity on its own, if you ask me, because when those very same firms decide to start their own social business journey(s) they are going to find out how they are facing a much tougher challenge with regards to adoption of these social tools, because their employees won’t just see the connection anymore. “Remember? You told us we can’t use these social networking tools at work, so we are not going to start now” is what most folks would probably say. And that reluctance can surely undermine whatever efforts you put in place to help drive that adoption. It just won’t happen. 

In the past we have seen some very insightful articles on the topic of whether employees do really waste time at work with social technologies or not, or other relevant pieces where, if anything, they are offering plenty of sound advice as to why businesses should not block the use of social media tools; on the contrary, they should promote them quite heavily, if anything. Perhaps my favourite article so far, at least, from the ones I have read over the course of time would be the one from TechRepublic by JackWallen under the title “10 reasons NOT to block social networking at work“, which, basically, covers some of the most compelling reasons as to why businesses, again, should not only encourage the use and adoption of social technologies, but embrace the many perks behind it.

I am not going to reference each and everyone of them, for sure, but I thought I would just go ahead and share a listing of them, as a teaser, to see the kinds of perks that embracing social networking tools and letting your employees be not only responsible, but accountable for using these digital tools to get work done in a professional and responsible manner could do for the business. Your business. To name: 

  1. “Morale
  2. Reputation
  3. Communication
  4. Advertising
  5. Collaboration
  6. Social Research
  7. Skill Building
  8. Transparency
  9. PR
  10. Networking”

Needless to say that in the world of Open Business my favourite perks of embracing social networking tools in a work environment would be those of Transparency, Collaboration, Networking and Reputation from the list shared above. More than anything because those would be some of the key ingredients towards provoking that particular business transformation that has been in the making for perhaps a bit too long already. Who knows.

Businesses today are starting to look more how they can become more authentic, more transparent, more unique on how they do business, on how they can help differentiate their brand. After all, we all know and fully understand how people do business with people, so the more transparent, open, collaborative, networked those conversations and interactions can well be amongst knowledge workers in a world where you have to work really hard to earn the merit and reputation with your customers and business partners, blocking social networking sites is not going to be very helpful for your overall mission, i.e. becoming a socially integrated enterprise.

As Dan himself concludes: “Social is the new normal. You are the antithesis of collaboration […]“. Actually, I would go even further. Social is the new post-normal, as my good friend Stowe Boyd wonderfully described just recently in a couple of very good articles describing what it is like. But it gets better, because if you have a bit over 30 minutes I would strongly encourage you all to have a look at the recent presentation he did on the topic at the Meaning 2012 Conference in Brighton, UK, that I blogged about recently and which was, without any doubt, one of the best presentations from the entire day and perhaps one of the best from the whole year. Watch through it and you will see what I mean. Here’s the direct link to the video clip and the embedded code if you would want to play it right away: 

So, there you have it. Next time someone approaches you and comments on whether they should block the use of all of these digital tools in the Open Business era, or if you engage in a conversation with people whose companies have already blocked the access to these social technologies, remind them how we are living in the Social Era whether they like it or not, in case they may not have noticed it just yet, and how we will be keep moving forward. With or without them.

It’d be their choice.