Are Social Networking Media Bad for Business?

As stated by Boyd and Ellison, (2007), since their introduction, social networking sites such as facebook, twitter, Myspace, linkedIn, Yesubook, just to mention but a few have attracted the attention and use of millions of individuals globally. Now there are hundreds of social networking sites with diverse technological affordances, representing varied interests and practices. Whereas their technological features are almost similar, the cultures encompassing social networking sites are different. Additionally, some sites support and sustain the already existing sites while others aid guests especially where they have common agenda.

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Currently, many businesses are turning their attention to SNS media for marketing their products as they are assured of a high audience. Moreover, as technological development advances, access to the internet is becoming even cheaper and easier, more so due to availability of internet enabled mobile phones where connectivity to social networking sites has become even more convenient; thus making the social networking sites ideal or good for businesses to market their products. This paper will discuss the suitability of social networking sites in carrying out business in the contemporary world.

According to Boyd, and Ellison (2007), “social network sites are web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded 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. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.”

While they employ a wide variety of technical features, their backbone comprise of visible profiles of friends who also make use of the system (Boyd, and Ellison, 2007). The user profile-visibility varies from one site to another with some sites such as Tribe.net and friendster allowing profiles to be viewed by the public. Others like facebook provide a restricted view to profiles. Development of social networking sites has taken place between the years 1997 and 2006 with sixdegrees.com being the earliest and Cyworld, Mychurch, twitter and facebook being the latest.

As stated by Boyd and Ellison (2007), that while most social networking sites focus on growing broadly and rapidly, others explicitly seek smaller audiences, for instance, aSmallworld and Beautifulpeople are only accessible to a few audiences unlike others, which are open to everybody. Currently, there are no reliable data showing how many people use social networking sites, although marketing research shows that they are gaining popularity globally. With this growth, the market has become very attractive and promising, thus allowing many firms to enter in order to reap handsomely. The chart below shows the usage of social networking sites in US.

The usage of social networking sites in US
Source: Morejon, Roy

As this is happening, other organizations are barring their employees from using these sites, for instance, two cases worth noting are the US prohibition of its soldiers to access Myspace and the Canadian government declaring Facebook a no go zone for its employees. A new organizational framework has been established to cater for guests who like working online through the introduction of social networking sites.

As Songpol (2009) argues, most social networking site “providers rely on online advertising to generate revenue.” Online advertisers are optimistic that users will not only purchase their products, but will also post comments, supplying them with relevant information pertaining to tends and products. Although there is an increasing range of information in the public domain on how people use these sites to exploit others, damages they are causing to both family and employer-employee relationships, research is still ongoing to establish what exactly influences people to use these sites. The aim of this study is actually to explore the impact of social networking media to business.

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According to Gaudin (2009), a study carried out by Palo Alto networks had shown that the number of people using Twitter and Facebook to obtain feedback about their company, sales, and promotions had grown by 250% and 192% respectively. The study had also revealed that with or without the management’s knowledge, employees were using social networks as promotional tools. The report from the company had summarized traffic assessments in at least 200 financial services, manufacturing, government, retail, and healthcare firms.

Shortly afterwards, studies by Experian Hitwise, an internet monitoring firm had indicated that “visits to the fourth most popular social networking site (Twitter) had increased by 1170% compared to the previous year,” and within almost the same time, Market leader research firm revealed that facebook’s market share had increased by 194% (Gaudin, 2009). This means that social networking sites are becoming increasingly popular with business enterprises as they seek to expand their market share as these sites contain almost the highest number of traffic.

Although the two companies have been portraying interesting upswings in social networking usage, research shows that some 15% of U.S companies are blocking their employees from using popular sites like facebook, Twitter, Myspace and linkedIn while on job as this may affect their overall performance. The research also show that quite a number of firms prefer to conduct their business, especially marketing through social networking sites, although there are several other firms that restrict the usage of the same. The reason for restriction according to Summer Nuclear Report, an IT research is that some employees tend to decline in productivity when allowed to access Facebook while working. IT is therefore clear that executives of companies limit their employees’ use of social networking sites mainly for security and productivity reasons (Gaudin, 2009).

One of the ways in which business makes sense on most social networking sites is through advertising. As Tynan (2009) puts it, despite solid revenue, advertising is not going down very well with social network site users or vice-versa. According to Nielsen report, this is fueled by the fact that most users do not only like ads, but they do not also trust them. The word that most social network users associate with is “false”. They actually do not trust ads. Although according to Nielsen report, social media outlets like facebook and Myspace possess the ability to change the nature of advertising by making it more “social.”

Instead of using genuine advertising words such as deal price and quality, they present it as if it is an advert from some facebook fans from whom you may have friends. Facebook will also put it in a more social way by including a “like” icon close to the product being advertised. Number of clicks on the “like” icon therefore brings out the validity and fame of a product being advertised. Therefore, most social network site users will evaluate the quality of the product based on whether their friends like it or not. This may not necessarily be a guarantee that the product will be purchased by users who clicked on it. In this way, advertising on social networks may not actually be good for business.

As Wagner (2010) puts it, there are numerous cases of employers recruiting their staff or former co-workers connecting on one of the social networking sites to form a network for the next job lead. The case of a former employee who had worked as a recruiter of a given company is discussed. Even though she was working with another company, she got information that her former company was recruiting. Being on linkedIn, she decided to text some of her former colleagues whom she had connected with on linkedIn. At the end of the day, it turns out that she not only connected with her former co-workers on linkedIn, but also she actively recruited them to her former company.

The company then goes ahead to sue her for the same; however, basing on the judge’s rule, the case may have gone ahead in order to significantly influence the usage of the social media positively. Additionally, whereas some companies may scout for former employees, there are risks of total strangers masquerading as former workers of the company. This may also have far reaching implications on the company’s profile if it goes ahead to recruit them. According to yearly surveys from Career Builder, the number of hiring managers using social networks to both screen and seek new recruits rose from 22 to 45 per cent between 2008 and 2009 (Levinson, 2010).

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The surveys also indicate that most of the employers use both a potential employees profile information and their presence online to assess their suitability for a given job. A good number of employers also recommended that job seekers should use social networking sites for job searching. The study also revealed that an incomplete profile on a professional site such as linkedIn for instance might just be as harmful to the jobseeker as uploading inappropriate photos. Incomplete profiles may perhaps reveal that the job seeker does not complete whatever they begin (Levinson, 2010 ).A related shortcoming of employers hiring employees on social networking sites is that at times people may not be whom their profiles suggest, their competences may not be easily evaluated just because they are one’s network of friends. Hiring people for business should not be based on whether the employer likes them but on whether needs them for the job.

According to Dubie (2010), most jobseekers on social networking sites lose job opportunities because they fail to observe some rules. First, the social networking profiles must be fully filled and integrated with search-engine friendly keywords in order to allow the potential employers to have a clear understanding of the profile of the candidate and decide whether he fits in the criteria sought; otherwise, the employer will be reluctant to contact a person who negligently omits to fill some areas. In addition, completely filled profiles act as marketing tool for the job seekers and in some instances, they may prove very crucial in landing some jobs one never expected as the employer can just go through the profiles in the sites rather than advertise for the jobs.

Secondly, when using social networking websites, the candidate should be categorical enough to demonstrate and vividly highlight what he can deliver as appertains to his or her career status. Thirdly, the person filling the online profile should go a notch higher to indicate in specific terms what exactly he or she expects from the job opening including his or her current engagement.

Fourthly, in order to be easily accessible by the potential employer, it is important to personalize and create URLs for social networking sites; indeed some sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow this, thus making candidates profiles more search engine friendly. In this case, the employer will only have to type the name of the candidate in the search engine and the details will just pop-up from the URL the candidate creates. This address should also be included in the application letters sent when seeking jobs as well as in CVs and business correspondent letters or cards in order to trigger the recipient to visit them.

Additionally, most social networking sites allow visitors to join specific groups that bring people having common expertise together; indeed, these groups not only allows employers to find the right candidates easily, but also allows the candidates to share with others, thus they are a source of knowledge and improving ones career expertise. Moreover, be courteous as there are many conmen online who would like to take any available opportunity to exploit others, for instance, one should take time to understand those who wish to ‘follow’ or connect with them in the sites. Finally, use of proper grammar and correct spelling in online profiles is important due to the important role they play in convincing the employer on ones ability to communicate effectively.

Social Networking sites are really into business mainly via advertising. Companies ought to review their advertising methods. Most companies ought to limit their employees’ use of the sites because it may have an impact on security and productivity. Finally, job seekers ought to be cautious while using social networking sites since potential employers use those sites to scrutinize their next recruits. In the contemporary business environment, social networking sites are becoming more popular in promoting business as most of people who consist of the target market spend most of their time in these sites. Therefore, businesses should be aggressive enough to ensure they exploit the opportunities available in social networking sites as this is basically the modern way of gaining competitive advantage as well as significant market share.

Reference List

Boyd, D. M. and Ellison, N.B., 2007. Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Michigan State University. Web.

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Dubie, D., 2008. The pros and cons of social networks and IT job seeking. Web.

Gaudin, S., 2009. Computer world: Business use of Twitter, Facebook explodingWeb.

Songpol, S. D., 2009. Using social network sites: the effects of playfulness, critical mass and trust in a hedonic context. The Journal of Computer information Systems. Web.

Tynan, D., 2009. Computer World: Social media? Booming. Social media advertising? Not so much. Web.

Wagner, M., 2010. Computer World: Using linkedIn could get you sued. Web.

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