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Professional/Social Networks – Where do we draw the line?

HR Performance asked the question below to twenty human resources professionals and managers. 
LinkedIn and Facebook are at the top, but Twitter and MySpace are falling behind…

Professional/Social Networks – Where do we draw the line?
Has the widespread growth of social networks become a distraction or are they essential to your personal and company’s development? Please include which social networks you need, use on occasion, could care less about, or find distracting.

networkingJohanna Norin
Performance Process Specialist
Volvo Cars
Göteborg Area, Sweden

This is a very up to date topic that I think many companies currently are facing. We have heard about companies that have had to forbid use of network sites such as Facebook and block company computers from sites like these. Although I know that many companies encourage networking and use of different networking sites.

I think it’s important to realize that it’s probably not black or white; it can vary depending on company, position and job tasks.

I can fully understand if companies draw the line at sites such as Facebook, where it’s a lot focus on meeting old and new friends, and time can easily be forgotten.

I personally think that other types of networking should be encouraged (depending on position and main job tasks) such as LinkedIn, Facebook for professionals, and networking groups focusing on specific topics. I work as a Specialist in my Company (within performance area). For me it’s crucial to have an opportunity to discuss how other people work with these issues and keep updated on what ongoing. More and more companies are talking about benchmarking. Different networks in my area of work are really helpful and important. I use LinkedIn, and I am part of different networking groups within my specialist area. Of course everything should be used in moderation and there should be a purpose with it, not all time should be on these networks.

So concluding my point of view; using work time to meet new friends or for job opportunities is not OK. Networking within your line of work to be able to keep up to date and broaden work networks are important and should be encouraged.

But remember these issues are difficult and need to be discussed (situation from situation)

Michele O’Connor
GoliathJobs & JobsOver50.com

I do believe that people need to utilize the various online professional networks (i.e. HR Performance, ERE, LinkedIn, etc) but need to control the number. It seems that the widespread growth of networks is starting to become a distraction. I would rather be involved in 2 or 3 powerful networks and give it my all versus being a member of 10 and constantly be bombarded with invites, friend/group requests, comments, etc. Remember that people are already distracted by Facebook, mySpace and even their school’s alumni network.

It is time to go outside and get some air people!

There has to be a threshold. The same complaint resonates throughout our company and it does not seem to end. Our IT department has shown our staff how to block invites from services like Ning which have made it too easy for this problem to happen. I am starting to wonder if Ning would be better off to charge a small fee. It would prevent every “Tom, Dick & Harry” from starting a network and driving us batty.

Marjon Oosterhout
B.V. Executive Coaching and Development
Passion for Talent

Maybe old fashioned, but I’m not a great fan of the LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, and other types of e-networking instruments. Why? They are too easy and don’t require a lot of effort. For me networking means having a real interest in people. Being willing to invest time to meet people and get to know them. This is how I have always networked and I’m finding it pays off. When I started my own company 2 years ago I was amazed by how many people from networks were willing to help, support, and refer. I don’t think the hundreds of names in LinkedIn who I hardly ever meet would have done that for me.

Bryan Crawford
Operations Manager
Total Loyalty Solutions, a Division of Gannett

I do not feel they are essential to company growth; however I think they need to be taken in to consideration when planning an advertising and marketing plan. Let’s face it, social networking is here and is hot right now. Whether it lasts remains to be seen, but for now they should be part of your company’s development.

Some companies block social sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace because they feel it takes time away from actual work being done. So for those companies they see it as a distraction to business. I personally feel that it is something that if monitored, could be an asset to a company’s growth. Viral marketing is a very valid and proven method to generate a buzz about a certain business or product. If you allow your employees to assist in promoting your business or product(s), you are getting a free form of advertising.

Of course you have to take the good with the bad, but by putting yourself out there and being seen as a company that cares about what the masses think, you are creating a better relationship with those that use your services or buy your products.

Where I would draw the line is to not allow it to overtake the other forms of advertising and marketing you currently utilize. It can be part of the plan, not the entire plan

John Wentworth
The Wentworth Company, Inc./Wentworth Recruiting

Twelve years ago or so, we did a search for the executive director of the Nevada Museum of Art. One of the three finalists was an art historian. When a member of the selection committee asked him how he evaluated contemporary art, the candidate demurred, making the point that only time will tell us which of today’s art is “good”, “good”, in an art historian’s eye, being perceived as relevant after time has passed.

I feel the same way about LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al. Only time will tell whether any one of them is a passing fancy or a durable advancement in how we communicate with each other.

I’m currently exploring Twitter and pretty much befuddled, making me think it will end up in the passing fancy box.

We, at Wentworth Recruiting, like LinkedIn because it’s a decent path toward candidates who would otherwise require laborious telephone networking to find. The good: we save time. The bad: we don’t find anyone we would not find anyway and we lose the opportunity for the serendipity afforded by a bunch of telephone conversations.

Marshall McLuhan divided communications into cold (LinkedIn) and warm (talking). In general, I prefer warm, although I acknowledge the cold communications can help get you to a productive starting place for the warm communications.

Jeremias Serna
Chenega Security & Protection Services

I had no interest in Social Networks prior to becoming a Recruiter. Even after that still little interest until I came to a position that I am struggling to fill. (Which I still haven’t, Senior Contracts Administrator, with Government Contract Experience, Ashburn, VA http://www.chenega.com). So now that I jumped in with every other recruiter, I am trying to figure out the “how to” of recruiting in social networks. I’ve read “Groundswell” by Josh Bernoff and about 1000 forums and webinars on the topic and next week at the SHRM Staffing Management conference will attend the “utilizing social networks” seminar. However, being new to this social networking game, so far I find it very time consuming and not too sure of results. I know MySpace is for kids, so I would never stoop to that. Twitter, although has been in the news quite a bit lately (Oprah), it seems to be headed in that same direction. Therefore as a recruiter I have focused in on LinkedIn and Facebook. But other than placing in the “what are you doing now” box the position I’m recruiting for, what else do I do to get that job out there? So to answer the initial question, are they a distraction to the company? Not yet. Beneficial to me? LinkedIn more than Facebook, but we will see if I can get some good networking going and not just responding to random forums. Which social networks are distractions? MySpace and Twitter seem like a waste of time to professionals, Facebook and LinkedIn seem they could be beneficial. But definitely not going to pay the monthly “in” fees.

David Bush, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Programs in HRD and Professor of I/O Psychology
Villanova University

I make primary use of LinkedIn and secondary use of Plaxo. Enough. I find the Facebook and Myspace too distracting for professional use – they are an overload. The discussion groups on LinkedIn are useful and convenient. Some have too little to be useful and others have too many desperate people promoting their business or seeking a job. There should be special sites for such purposes. I would be quite happy to have just LinkedIn. My only request of LinkedIn is that they allow business members to pay by an annual invoice. Restricting payment to a credit card seems to make the operation seem amateurish.

David Armstrong
Technology Startup Consultant/Investor

I use my LinkedIn as my professional network. But since the beginning I have been very careful who I add and I haven’t been hesitant to remove people. I see networking as an honest relationship, not ‘the person with the most wins’. If I see 500+ connections, that is a turnoff to me most times. Even worse, when I get the ‘generic’ invite, if people can’t even take the time…whew. So I love LinkedIn, I use it every day, but my connections are solid, not loose. I use Facebook as my personal social network, friends, and family. I am careful about what I put there though.

Joanne Bintliff-Ritchie
Chief Strategist
DoubleStar, Inc.

Social networking is here to stay – which sites we can’t be sure yet. But the phenomena will grow to be an integral part of how we relate to others – customers, prospects, employees, colleagues, networks, family, friends, etc. How you use it is up to each individual and individual company, but the majority will find that if they do not consciously and actively determine how to incorporate this into their overall interaction strategy, outside forces will control that for you. Better to be in control. I use LinkedIn and Facebook both personally and professionally, but separately. I don’t want to mix my personal and professional lives, and I have different goals and purposes for each so it doesn’t make sense to have one identity. Both have successfully connected me with leads to help with both individual and business development. I also find them helpful in evaluating suspects to determine which are true prospects and warrant direct follow up. And Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with extended family and distant friends.

Karen Beck, SPHR
Human Resources Manager
Winzeler Stamping Company

I can’t really use the word “essential” to define the role of the social network in personal and professional development, but they sure make life easier for a small organization such as ours when trying to establish benchmarks. The only thing that has become a distraction from my perspective is how a few are somehow able to circumvent the system and rules to make unsolicited sales pitches. Not saying I don’t approve of self-promotion, but it becomes very difficult and time-consuming to filter out unrelated postings–typically from someone who thinks they’ve found the perfect avenue to sell their wares–from the legitimate responses to thread inquiries. From my experience there are several groups that monitor such activity, and even fewer who are successful in doing it.

Although I am relatively new to the social networking process, the most useful networks for me personally (besides this one) have been HR Net, LinkedIn – Wellness as a Business Strategy, and an industry-specific network my organization belongs to.

Chris Massaro
The Source

We primarily use LinkedIn, and use it a considerable amount. We use Facebook as well, but not as much. These are fantastic tools, but many people don’t use them as well as they could. The essence of networking is give to get. You have to help people, to build relationship, loyalty, and hence, will get better results. Many people break the cardinal rule of networking, and feel because they have this great new tool, it doesn’t matter. Also, you have to stay within 1 – 2 degrees of a network to be affective. If you stray too far out, those people not only don’t know you, they don’t know the person trying to make the introduction. The quality of the data, in your technology used, is crucial.

Sheryll Poris, GPHR, SPHR
HR Manager

I find LinkedIn to be the most widely used and most helpful to employers and employees seeking opportunities. I think it is because it seems to be geared towards professional networking. Also, the alumni groups of companies one has worked for can be very helpful. I find Facebook “distracting”.

Monie Hamilton, SPHR
Vice President Human Resources
Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union

Sure social networks are new and confusing to many of us, but let’s keep an open mind and give it a chance. We might even start to like it. In the last century, how many of you were using e-mail and carrying a cell phone? Now they are essential tools. Social Networks seem to be following the same acceptance path and soon will become as necessary as phones and e-mail are now. It is too soon to know which sites will dominate. Currently, I am using LinkedIn for professional contacts and Facebook for personal.

LinkedIn is definitely useful for my professional development. The discussion groups can be informative and supportive. However, my company blocks most employee use of social networking sites because we feel that it is too distracting. Cell phone text messages are enough of a problem! On a personal level, Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. Face-to-face contact isn’t always possible and playing phone tag gets old. Using LinkedIn and Facebook, I can reach people and maintain more contact than before I discovered the joys of social networking.

Bottom line, while it can be distracting and addictive, social networking is here to stay. Let’s embrace it and find ways to benefit from its use.

Lori Prince
HR Director
The American Board of Radiology

I find LinkedIn to be great for personal, professional use. The groups and discussion forums are helpful, and it is a wonderful way to obtain referrals from contacts located across the country. I have no use for Facebook or MySpace as networking tools. I only use them for personal communications with distant friends.

Nandini Munshi
Sr. Recruiter and Trainer

‘Professional Network’ as the meaning of the word suggests is a net of contacts generated where the nodes are individuals or organizations with some common business features to get linked. The nodes should be connected to build up the professional networks. This means one should get connected to other through networks. As an individual I would think networking is good and is effective in generating business provided we play judiciously and well. It helps getting referral and hence might lead to generating a big lead which might lead to a good business. The bigger the network the bigger will be your connection to the world outside the envelope of self/institution you belong to.

The word play well here means that we remain connected to those people who might work out in business or professional gathering. We generally believe in ‘first impression is the last impression’. We should not move in random and try connecting with lot of people at a go; instead we should understand where we would be able to maintain a connection and the link where we want to establish ourselves. This will have little less connections or nodes directly in touch with you but these nodes would be stronger ones than the random ones. This would be the judicious decision taken by you ‘with whom to get connected’. This also would lead to a thought and hence another decision ‘with whom not to get connected’. This thoughtful decision is the line being drawn by you. Even though networking is good, we sometimes feel that face-to-face meetings or gatherings are far more effective than networking.

Sometimes, some of the social networks which allow you to connect to anyone without restrictions lead to distraction. This also can be avoided by if we control to accept the requests. If the request seems to be in business with yours then there is no harm in connecting through. Professional networks like LinkedIn are majorly helpful for company. Any other network with same line of business would be liked by individuals. Social networks (Facebook or MySpace or Orkut) which allows us to connect to previous schoolmates or distant friends might be useful as we would be able to get connected to those whom we know are into similar domain but were not in touch for some years. Such networks could be labeled as second category, first category being the previous one as explained.

Daniel Kanouse
Executive Coach, Philadelphia PA
Take Charge Consultants, Inc.

I don’t use social networks beyond LinkedIn. They seem to be fine. I don’t like Twitter or others. They are mostly a distraction and I don’t use them. I think that for people in the profession a blog related to their specialty is a make sense way to go. If you want information about what is happening in the HR field, for example you can and should go to sites that gather and report that information and link you to other sites that can provide that information. Additionally I use journals and article related to the specific area where I have a need or an interest. The “social networks” are a distraction and I don’t use them. I have logged on to them and find that there is too much information that I am not interested in. I also have professional sites where I get relevant information like the OD National and Local Network or local and National ASTD. I am a psychologist so I go to the PA Psychological association and get info there. Additionally I get info from related sites in my professional area such as Coaching etc.

David Mezzapelle
Founder, Director of Marketing & Development

These networks are out of control and a topic we frequently discuss at our company.

We need to draw a line between “essential” and “overkill.” There are useful networks that have been instrumental in bringing us new clients as well as keeping our staff up-to-date on industry trends, best practices and more. The problem is that our staff is bombarded daily with invitations to join new networks. The other problem is proliferation of “groups.” It seems that joining a network is no longer enough. “Groups” or “sub networks” are forwarding invitations on a daily basis as well.

If we were to accept every invitation and participate in the related forums, we would be taking away from the core task of running our company. I hear this same compliant from other organizations as well.

I can’t speak for everyone but I do know that we all use LinkedIn, HRP Performance Sites and ERE. Our academic marketing team also leverages the power of Facebook to penetrate the applicable demographics. We are also building a team to manage a Twitter campaign because, quite frankly, I do not think we have much of a choice if we wish to be competitive.

Ning offers a great environment for organizations to create their own networks. However, many of these networks are at the core of the problem I mentioned above. The main networks and sub networks coming out of Ning comprise a majority of these “overkill” networks.

Bernadette Hill
Division Manager
Tri-Starr Staffing

Professional Networks – Where do we draw the line?
I think one has to evaluate the usefulness of all relevant networking sites and determine the couple that makes sense for them to utilize. The amount of sites out there is overwhelming and it’s easy to waste a lot of time maintaining profiles, etc…

Has the widespread growth of social networks become a distraction or are they essential to your personal and company development?
They are essential for my company’s development but not so for my personal goals. Being mindful about the amount of time spent on such sites and their ROI is essential.

Please include which social networks you need, use on occasion, could care less about, or find distracting.
Linked In – useful
Facebook – somewhat useful but more socially oriented than professional… Have the occasional use for it.
Twitter – The name says it all. I don’t dig it but it’s the new “in” site, so I have a presence on it. Takes a lot of time and that is a big drawback – only don’t fancy being “followed”.
My Space – no use since I’m over the age of 21

Eric Kramer
Chief Innovation Officer
Innovative Career Services

Remember when GOOGLE was just a plain square rectangle text box on a white page?

I believe we are seeing the early emergence of a new way of interacting and connecting. Right now there is a fire hose of information with only the beginnings of programs to organize and interpret the information.

Twitter is a good example. There is a huge volume of Tweets. Tweet search can look at all those Tweets and return real time information about what is being discussed. Some argue Tweet Search is more valuable than Google due to its immediacy. There are probably 50 Twitter Tools one can use to organize Twitter with more being developed every day. Twitters value will increase as its use and organization develops.

Right now all the various social sites can be overwhelming and confusing. Having to post information and updates in multiple places is time consuming. However, we are seeing the cross pollinating of information from one site to another with time they will all be linked. Post once and regardless of site your information will appear.

I do believe that nothing will replace the handshake, at least I hope for humanity’s sake there isn’t. However, online social networks will become more and more a part of how we engage others. We will also get better at using them and harnessing their power.

I am a big proponent of LinkedIn and I am an active Twitter user. I actually like being followed… maybe it’s the narcissist in me.

Donald F. Ashley
Marketing Capital Management (“MCM”)

LinkedIn is a valuable tool in the recruiting field where MCM participates. As for individuals I tend to see our younger associates being far more “linked in” than those of a later generation. Facebook seems to be utilized more for social networking and renewing old friendships. Over time I believe one or more of these networking sites will replace the bulky leather bound address book or the desktop rolodex.

  1. May 7, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    If we move away from the ROI valuation model for social media and adopt a more dynamic ‘options’ analysis, a different picture emerges. People are trading options; that is, the right without the obligation to exercise an action.

    While there is much ‘feel-gooding’ about LI, FB, and Twitter, I have personally formed a relatively few but extremely profound, important and valuable relationships through “computer enabled society”. I gave given these people the option to access my network and they have done the same. Our common purpose makes each relevant and valuable to the other and both willing to support, mentor, and elevate the other.

    The distinction is that what once was a “first impression” – firmness of handshake, fashion, and physical appearance is now the second impression. What was once the “second impression” is now the first; intellect, wisdom, and generosity of knowledge.

    This, I believe, is a huge evolutionary step for mankind.

  2. May 7, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I have found LinkedIn to be an invaluable tool; I will however say that give it’s growth there is a critical need for website monitors-I am absolutely opposed the the “Open Networkers.” I consider it worthless and a waste of time-If I connect with someone who became a contact trough LinkedIn I am in some way doing business, collaborating, and in some cases being coached and coaching.

    LinkedIn is at a critical stage in its growth right now; in my opinion of course. If not strictly monitored and I mean removing jobs that aren’t real, seperating success fee jobs from salaried jobs, removing irrelevant posts, chronic promoters, open networkers, it will soon be the next Craig’s List!

    I’ve helped a lot of people on LinkedIn and a lot of people have helped me, I’m amazed by it’s impact and the ability I now have to reach out to experts everywhere; the next year, perhaps less will define it’s failure to achieve that which it can or it’s Prominence. Guy Kawasaki wrote an article on the 10 great ways to use LinkedIn, one thing he wrote, which is no longer the case, which I considered LinkedIn’s strongest attraction was the ability to make and request referrals-I have several times in the past 60 days asked direct connections of mine to make a referral and ALL four times they said “I don’t know that person!!!” (4 to be exact) That is a result of open networking.

    I use for Twitter, MySpace, I do like Facebook but it’s so incredibly cluttered it drives me crazy; I find no value in anything Facebook offers other than a way for me to stay connected to or reconnect with old and current friends-that I really enjoy!

    Lastly what I find to be insane is that you cannot call a single live person EVER on these networks everything is forms, drop down menus, faq’s, and because that alone seperates them from their audience and customer they are loosing the ability to build loyalty and foster relationships which is the essence of what their promoting!

  3. June 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Social media is just the latest “shiny object” in the world of new & emerging media as more & more recruiters & marketers are jumping on the bandwagon.

    Once the guild is off the lily, the distractions will die down and online communities Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and other web 2.0 networks will take their place among other media used in a recruiting or marketing campaign – and as part of the overall “footprint” for web presence and branding.

    I read the average number of readers for the vast majority of blogs is two – and that includes the author. So the blogsphere is likely to contract at the same pace it inflated with in the first place.

    We’ve also seen the decline of newsgroups as these communities have migrated to LinkedIn groups, Facebook and other social networks. The media mix for recruiters & marketers is changing – (recruiting & employment branding is essentially marketing) – and will continue to evolve. The trick will always be to find the right mix of tools to achieve the desired business goals.

    And like any distraction, if it’s not work related, employers would be advised to limit personal use of company PCs.

  4. June 18, 2009 at 9:32 am

    It was great to see different views on this.

  5. June 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I look at social networks like I do religion and politics. It’s something best left to the individual to decide. In the instance of how social networks impact an organization, well the decision to participate, encourage employees to utilize, or incorporate social networking into the organization’s culture is solely a personal choice on the part of the company. I’ve heard both sides of the “debate” on social networking’s impact on an organization’s reputation and frankly, I can easily see both sides. I don’t think anyone disproves the validity of social networking and the impact it is having on society, but when I hear people speak about social networking, they almost sound scared of it. I’ve heard some people say that it opens the flood gates to airing “dirty laundry” about an organization. I can see that happening (and I know it does), but don’t you think that employees with a grudge (or legitimate complaint) will find a venue for broadcasting their dissatisfaction, regardless of the venue? I do and I’ve seen it happen numerous times. Why do companies like Microsoft and Ernst and Young embrace social networking within the workplace while other companies shun it? From what I have observed, it comes down to understanding and control.

  1. May 17, 2009 at 6:16 am

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