Social media — the “dark side”

October 26, 2009 at 11:38 am | Posted in Social media | Leave a comment

It should be no surprise that social media, like anything, can be very useful as a communications tool as well as an enormous waste of time. Now comes a report assessing just how much of a waste (it’s always fun when folks try to quantify these things).

According to a post on the Mashable blog, an IT services company has determined that workers in the UK are costing their employers some US $2.25 billion by using social media networks of various kinds. Call it frittering away by Twittering away, perhaps.

As this post notes, this sort of research isn’t new, nor is it limited to how social media can be just one more way for us to waste time and money at our desks. I recall the early days of the web when many studies put a price tag on productivity lost by workers surfing all manner of sites that had nothing to do with work (shopping, game sites, dating, etc.).

Indeed, as the post concludes, if you add up all this stuff, you have quantitative proof that workers spend their entire day at stuff other than work (well, maybe on some days). And it reminds us that before we had all these spiffy digital tools to help us waste time, we had the water cooler and the coffeemaker.

This just underscores what most of us already know. Social media channels, for all their real (and potential) transformative upside, aren’t magic or a strategy unto themselves, but just a means to specific ends, to be used appropriately.

What I’d love to see is a body of quantitative research on the ROI that social media do or can offer to those of us trying to adapt communications plans to the fast-changing digital landscape. Will those start to roll out any time soon?

Stay tuned.

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