Pros and cons of social networks in business …the debate goes on

Social networks have taken the centre stage in the ICT world and have emerged and become a business hub in the ever dynamic ICT environment.

The ICT environment has been burrowed through by different agents from cyber crime, hacking and internet fraud that defer and change the ICT sector into a ticking time-bomb. But social networking with networks like You-Tube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Hi5 seems to have evolved into an opportunity for businesses.

In fact, the social network is actually influential to any business developments and procedures. The top social network at the moment is Facebook, which at this point, promotes social network development and social media marketing. Companies in fact believe in the power of social media to help them market their products and services better.

Networking has been at the root and strategy for building and marketing businesses long before the internet emerged as a powerful tool and certainly heightened by the explosion of services such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook itself that promote and advertise a lot of business opportunities.

Social networking has become an attractive channel for the different businesses that want to extend their word of mouth, credibility and influence, hence Twitter - if you have a considerable number of followers, you are more likely to attract more followers.

Take journalists, for example, modern day reporters may still ponder and nag people on the phones to find stories. These days, a story or scoop may sometimes present itself on LinkedIn forums or through Facebook posts. And from there, you have a lead story and you can work from there.

Sometimes the social networks become an extension of the reporting team. And the reporter who used to appear as a mere byline can now enter the conversation with instant feedback on a comment about a story.

“They increase brand awareness for your business in terms of name and logo, colours of your business, what your company does and the community becomes aware of all your business promotions,” states Dynamic Mobile solutions personnel and seasoned professional in the field, Sylvanes Rumeta.

They also highlight that the community becomes aware of all your business promotions and the business is shown in good light as it keeps up with new social technology to communicate with their customers. In the process, they help increase customer database and have a broader voice to speak to a new audience all the time.

While there’s plenty of buzz about social networks, most Government ministries and even the banking institutions like FNB have not embraced social networks so much, as they are viewed as threats to security as well as productivity.

To appreciate the importance of the social networking, there is need to understand which networks are influential and relevant and which aren’t; which ones to cut off and which ones to keep.

“There is no control over anything as negative marketing and information can be falsified,” states Rumeta.

The secret with social networks is finding a way to keep customers coming back to your pages and updating news of your business developments constantly.

Most of the companies in Namibia believe a number of their employees waste a considerable amount of time on Facebook and thus a considerable percentage of business is lost at the end of the day. Various sites have been blocked in the work place to reduce the traffic of online use during business hours.

“We incur a lot of losses in terms of data downloads from the various social media networks, hence the request by our bosses to block social networks,” asserts an IT analyst at Aveshe Technologies Namibia, Steve Makuchete.

This is a view from a professional in the IT sector who is forced to apply blocking mechanisms to social networks. In most cases, Facebook has become their communication tool of choice among colleagues and friends. Why would they work for a company that’s going to block the tool they use on a daily basis to communicate, share and learn from?

One aspect companies should take note of is that before the boom and introduction of the so-called ‘social networks’, people used to take more time out socialising by going outside and taking a smoke break. This took more time as employees nowadays leave their work stations to actually switch in between social network and work.

So, social networks have their advantages in businesses as they allow for further opportunities to be pursued, whilst from an employer’s perspective, it is just a moment for employees wasting time and not meeting their targets.

In the end, one questions whether social networking destroys efficiency or boosts effectiveness. PF