Productivity can be reduced by social networking according to some businesses. Indeed, many companies now ban their staff from connecting to MySpace or Facebook, for instance. Some companies have even arranged for their firewalls to prevent these sites from loading.

This is all borne out of the notion that social networking is a time waster; that people just troll around these sites, posting comments, looking at video clips and generally having a good time. A small business survey at the opinion poll company YouGov revealed that even though IT problems cause the most significant loss of time in a company, the focus of business owners in dealing with time wasting is in stopping the staff from doing “unnecessary” things, which actually only account for a tiny fraction of time wasting.

Any business owner who thinks that social networking is a waste of time needs to think long and hard about they achieved what they did. Almost no-one running a business today got their because of ability, knowledge or expertise. Almost everyone running a business is in their position because of “who they know”. True, there are some great business leaders who understand finance, or marketing or selling, perhaps all three. But there are plenty of people running businesses who depend on other people to do all this for them. In other words, the success of most business leaders is dependent upon the network of people they have around them, either as employees, suppliers or advisers.

True enough, social networking sites can prove to be a bit of a distraction, but so too can face to face networking. And don’t forget that much of the time people at work spend hours in meetings which have extraordinarily low levels of productivity, in spite of managers believing them to be important and valuable.

Social networking sites are much more likely to lead to a rise in productivity because they will increase those important connections between people. And it is the connections between people that lead to business success. So, make sure you use and exploit social networking sites, rather than seeing them as a time waster. Time spent contributing to social networking sites will be more likely to improve your business than have a negative impact. So rather than restricting staff usage of social networking sites, you should positively encourage it.

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