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Social networking sites in the work place

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Systems
Wordcount: 3273 words Published: 1st May 2017

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Benefits and problems of social networking sites in the work place

“In the early 1990s, websites were used to share information with other people, though many people felt that this was not personal enough, since it lacked the sense of togetherness. This led to the development of social networking and social networking sites in the early 2000s’. This concept was embraced and readily accepted by many people who felt the need for a more personalized way of communicating through the web”. (Sharpened.com, November 2009)

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Between 2007 and 2009, the craze about social networking and especially social networking sites has grown rapidly and is continuing to grow at a very rapid rate. Accodring to Owyang, social networking sites like Facebook has a high growth rate with more than 60million active users, an average of 250,000 new registrations every day since January 2007 and with an average 3% weekly growth rate since January 2007.(2008)Smith(2008) also states that the number of people using social networking sites has grown by 12% in the last six months from June 2008. The most popular social networking sites include the likes of Facebook and HI5, which according to Smith(2008), together have 59million users(see figure 1); they can also include internal social sites for people working in the same enterprise. Social networking sites are popular because anyone who has access to the internet can join any social networking site seeing as they are free and easy to join. This makes people spend most of their time on these social networking sites chatting with friends or just updating their information.

This craze has also affected those in the workplace and they find themselves spending a lot of company time on these social sites (some of which are also internal social networking sites) and forget to work. The amount of time employees spend using social networking applications is a major reason why many enterprises do not like their employees using the social networking applications during office hours.

I believe that social networking and social networking sites do have their advantages that can be of great benefit to an enterprise; but they can also cause problems for an enterprise. In this paper, I am going to discuss the benefits/advantages and problems/disadvantages of social networking and find out if it is worth having social networking and social networking sites in the work place.


social networking, social networking sites, social networking applications,

Social networking can be broadly defined as a social structure made of people who may or may not have a common interest. WhatisSocialnetworking.com(2009) agrees with this definition by defining social networking as the grouping of individuals into specific groups,…although social networking is possible in person, especially in the workplace, universities and high school, it is most popular online.

I can define a social networking site as an internet site where people go to communicate and keep in touch with their friends and family. But according to Boyd and Ellison(2007), the terms social networking and social network should not be used interchangeably seeing as they do not mean the same. They(Boyd and Ellison,2007) decided to use the term “social network” which they define as, “[a] web-based service that allows individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bound system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

Social networking has many benefits to both individuals and enterprises. However many enterprises today are still sceptical about whether or not to permit their employees access to social networking sites and their applications; and if they do grant access, they worry about the implications of allowing them to access these sites and applications, in terms of time spent on these social networking sites and using the applications.

However, such enterprises should understand that there are benefits to using social networking sites and applications in the workplace that not only benefit the employees but also the enterprise as a whole. Some of the benefits have been discussed below.

Benefits of social networking in the workplace

There are various benefits of social networking in the workplace and these include: firstly, social networking and social networking sites can be used to enhance the enterprise’s image. If an enterprise has access to social networks, this can improve its image. According to Kelleher(2009), building [a] strong social network can help a business to improve its reputation…and that social networks can boost the image of an enterprise as thought leaders in the field and customers start to acknowledge the enterprise as reliable and excellent source of information/products that meet their[customers] requirements.

Also a social network can help an enterprise expand its market research. Social networking sites can be used by an enterprise to increase its customer base. This is true because an enterprise can advertise its products/services to the users of these sites; the enterprise can also use these social networking sites to get new users for its products/services seeing as through the social sites, the enterprise can do a survey of those people who know/use their product/service and then target those who do not know about their Kelleher(2009) agrees with this for he says that using a social networking site like facebook can help a small business target a large audience without having to do much advertising.

In addition, social networking sites can be used as a low-cost marketing tool. An enterprise can use social networking sites to advertise itself and its products and services. This is because in most social networking sites, advertising of products/services is done for free and hence the enterprise saves the expenses it would have used on advertising.

By having an internal social network an enterprise can keep records of the employees more easily. According to DiMicco et al(2008), a social network can be a new source of information for the enterprise, and new possibilities for understanding the workforce. This can enable the managers at the enterprise to better understand its workforce.

Furthermore, social networking sites can help an enterprise to increase its customer base. An enterprise can mine its employees’ friends on social networking sites and target them as new customers for its products/services. Laudon and Laudon(2007) agree by saying that social networking can be used to expand the number of an enterprise’s business and social networks/contacts and also to link people through mutual business thereby enabling them to mine their friends for sales leads.This is an effective way for an enterprise to increase its customer base because it may be easier to convince people who have a mutual relationship with your employees to use your product/service than it is to convince people who have no relationship with the enterprise at all.

Lastly, social networking can enable the enterprise to reach its target market/customers. an enterprise can use social networking sites to find out who their target customers are. According to Ladoun and Laudon(2007), an enterprise can do this seeing as users of social networking sites reveal a lot of information about themselves when signing up and using these sites and this information can be used to create advertisements that will appeal to their desired target customers/audience.

An enterprise can further use social networking sites to have a closer relationship with its customers. An enterprise can form its own group in a social network where all its present and potential customers can join and gain access to the offers and deals that the enterprise has to offer for members of its group only. Kelleher (2009) agrees with this in that he says that social networks provide an opportunity for businesses to reach out and target groups of customers; he also agrees that businesses can encourage customers to join their network of friends in the social networking site in order to access special discounts given only to those customers who are online contacts to the business.

Problems of social networking in the workplace

The major problem most enterprises have with allowing their employees access to social networking sites is employees spending too much time on the social networking sites thus affecting their(the employees) productivity. Keller (2009) agrees with this as he also says that organizations do not like having social networking in the workplace since most employees spend most of their time on these sites updating their profiles instead of doing their work. Laudon and Laudon(2007) also share the same view as they say, “members of social networking sites spend hours surfing pages, checking out other members and exchanging messages…” To support his argument, Keller uses the example that if every employee in an enterprise comprising of 50 employees spent 30 minutes a day on a social networking site per day, the enterprise would lose 6,500hours of productivity in a year! This is a great amount of time that could have been used to do company work and be productive.

Social networking can also lead to tension in the workplace. This is in terms of the relationships in the office. This is because some employees will feel that their colleagues are spending too much time on social networking sites while they are working to cover the workload for those who are on the social networking sites. This causes tension especially if those employees who spend a lot of time on the social networking sites are known by the other

Another problem can be that of wastage of company’s resources. This is in terms of bandwidth. Most of the social networking site have some content that takes up a lot of bandwidth and if employees access these contents, they use up all the bandwidth making it impossible for other internet users to access the internet. This can also make the enterprise incur more costs because it will have to use more money to create more bandwidth that an support both the social network’s content and those of the enterprise(Kelleher, 2009).

The third problem of social networking in the workplace, according to Kelleher (2009), is the threat of viruses and malware:

“…Hackers are attracted to social networking sites because they see the potential to commit fraud and launch spam and malware attacks. There are more than 50,000 applications available for Facebook…Some have the potential to be used to infect computers with malicious code, which in turn can be used to collect data from that user’s site. Messaging on social networking sites is also a concern, and the Koobface worm is just one example of how messages are used to spread malicious code and worms.”

A further problem may be that of social engineering. Social engineering has been defined by*** as

Reputation and legal liability

Employees may post information that may damage the company’s image

To prohibit or not to prohibit

There is no one solution to the problem of employees abusing their access to social networking sites. Some enterprises have tried using technology and internal controls to control the amount of time employees spend on these sites and the content that they can access. Though this seems to fail seeing as employees are devious people and will always get other ways of accessing these social networking sites wither by bypassing the security measures put by the enterprise or by accessing the sites from elsewhere.

This causes a dilemma for the management of enterprises because they know that the world is moving towards social networking as the new mode of communication with customers and the outside world and they also know the benefits their business will accrue due to the use of social networking sites; and they also know the implications they have when they (managers) allow employees free access to these sites.

So what options does the enterprise have in its reach? According to Kelleher (2009), an enterprise has three options it can use when dealing with the issue of social networking in the workplace. That is: ban access to social networking sites, set limits and restrictions to use, and allow unmonitored access.

i) The first option an enterprise has is total ban on access of social networking sites. This simply means that the enterprise does not allow employees to access any social networking sites from the workplace computers. This option is mainly used by organizations that want to keep the status quo. However most enterprises do not seem to opt for this option because they see it as a sign of no trust in the employees causing them to rebel against the enterprise and be less productive.

ii) The next option is setting limits and restrictions for use. This simple means allowing employees access to some of the applications available on the social networking sites. Some enterprises may even go to the extent of only allowing certain employees access to the social networking sites for a limited amount of time. This strategy may not be total useful for an enterprise in that if some employees are granted access to the social networking sites while others are not, it may bring about hatred and jealousy in the workplace making the work environment tense and unfriendly.

iii) Allowing unmonitored access. This is when the enterprise allows its employees to access social networking sites at any time and for whatever duration of time. This is the worst strategy of the three in that the employees will now be even more unproductive seeing that they have access to these sites without anybody monitoring what they are doing. This can also turn to be detrimental to the enterprise in that it has no control over the content the employees are posting and passing through the sites since the enterprise does not monitor what the employees are sending.

Of the three options, the best would be to setting limits and restrictions for use. However, whichever option an enterprise chooses to use, it must ensure that the enterprise’s vital and critical information is protected from viruses and malware and from hackers. This can be achieved by having updates anti-viruses, a firewall to monitor and restrict access to certain internet applications, and social networking sites.(Kelleher, 2009)


Social networking is a concept that is quickly gaining acceptance from everyone in all walks of life from students to CEOs and senior managers of big enterprises. They see social networking as a quick, cheap and effective way to keep in touch and communicate with their friends and family; and customers and employees, in the case of CEOs and senior managers.

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Social networking sites are both beneficial and risky to an enterprise. The major thing that perturbs most enterprises of today about allowing employees access to social networking sites is that they have no control over the information being passed by the employees. Most social networking sites ask for so much information when one is joining and at times, this information can be used against the individual and may eventually be used against the enterprise.

Kelleher(2009) suggests some tips for an enterprise should follow when allowing access to social networking sites; these are:-

i) Restrict access. An enterprise can achieve this by controlling the amount of time employees spend on the social sites. One enterprise may allow employees to access these sites during their breaks or before/after office hours. While another may allow its employees to access only certain social sites and only certain applications in those sites that do not take up the enterprise’s bandwidth.

ii) Educate and train employees. Employees should be educated on the implications their activities on the social sites may have on the enterprise because most employees do not know that their actions on social sites can have a great impact on the enterprise. Employees should also be trained on how to recognise suspicious links that may be connected to viruses and malware that could damage the machines and the enterprise network, and that they should not just click nay link they find on social sites. They should also be made conscious of the information they give on these sites and how this information can be used against them and the enterprise.

iii) Set security and usage policies.

June 2008 December 2008

Total unique total unique

visitors(000) visitors(0000 1H’08 growth

Total internet: total audience 860,511 815,797 5.5% 44.716

Social Networking: Total audience 580,510 516,318 12.4% 64,102

Facebook 132,105 97,792 35.1% 34,313

Myspace 117,582 107,167 9.7% 10,415

hi5 56,367 31,428 79.4% 24,939

Friendstar 37,080 29,735 24.7% 7,345

Orkut 34,028 25,138 35.4% 8,891

Bebo 24,017 21,282 12.9% 2,736

Other 179,330 203,776 -12% -24,447

Sorce: comScore.Inc cited in Smith(2008)

Geography: Worldwide


Social Networking, accessed from http://www.sharpened.net/glossary/definition.php?socialnetworking, accessed on 4th November 2009

What is social networking?, accessed from http://www.whatissocialnetworking.com/ accessed on 23rd November 2009

Boyd D. M., and Ellison N.B., Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship, Michigan State University, (2007), accessed from http://consommacteurs.blogs.com/files/socialnetworksites_boyd-ellision_2007.pdf , accessed on 23rd November 2009

DiMicco J., Millen D. R., Geyer W., Dugan C., Brownholtz B. and Muller M., Motivations for Social Networking at work, CSCW, (2008), accessed from http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/1470000/1460674/p711-dimicco.pdf?key1=1460674&key2=0634998521&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&CFID=64533696&CFTOKEN=15961752 , accessed on 23rd November 2009

Kelleher D., 5 Problems with social networking in the workplace, Information Management Special Reports, October 2009, accessed from http://www.information-management.com/specialreports/2009_165/social_networking_media-10016208-1.html , accessed on 7th November 2009

Laudon K.C. and Laudon J.P., Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm, 10th Edition, Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. ISBN: 0-13-120681-8

Owyang J., Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion (Jan, 2008), Weekly Digest of the Social Networking Space, (January 2008), accessed from http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/01/09/social-network-stats-facebook-myspace-reunion-jan-2008/ ,accesed on 3rd December 2009

Sinrod E. J., Can social networking co-exist with the workplace?, December 2007, accessed from http://news.cnet.com/Can-social-networking-co-exist-with-the-workplace/2010-1030_3-6223458.html , accessed on 7th November 2009

Smith J., Intriguing trends in Social Networking Growth during 1H 2008, (July, 2008), accessed from http://www.insidefacebook.com/2008/07/27/intriguing-trends-in-social-networking-growth-during-1h-2008/ , accessed on 3rd December 2009


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