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This report contains research into social networks explaining the ways in which they benefit an organisation and how it can affect its employees, increase customer relations, whilst also briefly discussing the disadvantages of social networking sites to organisations. . Introduction
The total global internet audience currently stands at 625 million. This figure is expected to increase by 45 percent to 2.2 billion by 2013 (Morris 2010). With this increase of internet users, organisations are choosing to adopt a web presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Those who would like more professional networks may turn to social networks such as LinkedIn, Ryze and Tribe, to name a few. However some social networking sites like Facebook give the user the option of creating a business account.
Social networking can be used by organisations to perform a variety of roles with the organisations business such as, marketing a new product, obtain a web presence, increase customer relations and occasionally to recruit new employees (Gonzalez and Andrews 2010) http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/story.jsp?storyId=312959255
Some organisations, however, may remain sceptical about welcoming the use of social networking sites within the workplace. However with constant security risks, these apprehensions can be understandable. This is supported by a comment made in the security threat report published by Sophos(2009) where they have found that web-based attacks are out weighing the attack through email, as financially motivated criminals are turning their attention to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, Sophos (2009) has discovered that 50 percent of organisations are blocking all or some access to social networking sites, meaning that these organisations are aware of the security issues concerning social networks.
Nevertheless, when security risks are addressed, the benefits of an organisation using social networking can be of great benefit, in particular the financial gain. These benefits are explained further within this paper.
2. Staff Morale
High staff morale is very important element as it increasing productivity within an organisation. As previously mentioned, according to research undertaken by Sophos (2009), 50 percent of companies are blocking access to social networking sites. Morris (2010) states "Staff morale is important and it would be viewed as draconian to block reasonable use of social networking sites at work." van Zyl (2008) is also in agreement with Morris as she states " the use of asynchronous communication methods, such as blogs and wikis, can increase productivity and workflow efficiency."
Further, IT literate employees will always find methods to combat blocks that the organisation has implemented. Such ways include using a proxy server to bypass the security blocks; therefore it is imperative that the organisation addresses this if they are to block access to social networks. However they may run the risk of decreasing staff morale by doing this.
3. Customer Relationships
Many organisations are now embracing the benefits in social networking to bring them closer to their customers and improve brand experience. One of the areas where social networking will have a big impact is the constant communication with customers (van Zyl, 2008). By communicating with customers via social networking, it can have an impact on the perceived image of the organisation. Social networking can show that the organisation is being innovative and modern, particularly if it is only a small to medium sized organisation. By adopting social networking, organisations can provide instant access to information to customers that is not available on their web site (assuming they do not have one), where previously they would have had to enquire through email or by telephone. This also eliminates frustration caused by delays (Brown and Diguid, 2009).
5. Content sharing
Organisations can share 'samples' of their products on the social networking sites that they are subscribed to, for example, if the organisation produces online games, then they can post a demo version of an upcoming game. This allows the customer to download and play the game.
In addition to content sharing, businesses will want feedback on the content that they have uploaded on their page. Whether this feed back is positive or negative, it will be beneficial to the finished product. Specialist blogs and forums can help with this.
6. Reaching Targets
With some social network sites, such as Facebook, it is possible to create a 'group' to which people that are interested can be come 'members' or 'fans.' This can be beneficial to a business as they can establish how successful and effective their online presence is by monitoring the amount of people that are part of their group.
By having a fan base on a social networking site, organisations can use this for recruiting. Recruiting online will significantly reduce stationery and administration costs, as a simple job advertisement and specification can be uploaded to the organisation profile page. An added benefit of recruiting via social network is that applicant can be pre-screened online - if profile restrictions allow (Mize, 2007). http://ezinearticles.com/?Social-Network-Benefits&id=464645
Above all, social networking can be used by organisations' as a free or very low cost marketing tool. Organisations' can advertise their latest products or services on social networking sites, by doing this, existing 'friends' of the organisations' page are almost certain to know one or two others within their social circle who will be interested in the product or service (Row, 2009.) Further, groups on social networking sites can also be created by the businesses so that customers can become 'fans' or members of this group to which the businesses can directly send that group marketing information.
7. Find expert knowledge
8. Disadvantages of Social Networking
Social networks bring with them a variety of risks, such as, identity theft and malware. As we now know 50 percent of organisations are blocking some or all access to social networking sites, however the risk to the IT infrastructure of that company still remains. The reason behind this is that some social networking sites allow the users to download and use applications (Morris, 2010). These applications can be easily compromised by an experienced hacker who can use methods such as, SQL Injections or Trojans to exploit vulnerabilities within the application. Applications can consist of online greeting cards, tools and quizzes that are created by users and are hosted externally, meaning that there are no rules or regulations to adhere to (Morris, 2010). Furthermore, hackers can also set up false profiles and search through details of an organisation such as e-mail address (MessageLabs, 2007).
The aim of this research paper was to identify the benefits of social networking within a business whilst also briefly addressing the associated risks of using social networking within a business. The above research showed that social networking increases productivity, motivation and innovation within a business environment by allowing users to use social networking sites more efficiently and appropriately in order for them to collaborate with other peers and experts within the same field.