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Social Networking — Britain ignores while US explores

Facebook and other Social Networking websites have polarized opinions amongst businesses. However, the most telling aspect of this split is that the divide runs right down the middle the Atlantic — and Britain appears not to be on the right side…

Facebook and other Social Networking websites have polarized opinions amongst businesses. However, the most telling aspect of this split is that the divide runs right down the middle the Atlantic — and Britain appears not to be on the right side…

For instance, a recent report into “Trends and Best Practices in Adopting Web 2.0 in 2008” by Awareness, Inc., highlighted some very interesting figures regarding the 70% adoption rate of Social Networking & Social Media by businesses, which I presume to be US-based, since the report itself does not make any reference to the nationality of its demographics.

Contrast that with the 70% of businesses in London who’re either banning or restricting the use of Facebook during working hours.

While it’s obvious I can’t directly compare a city, no matter how large, to an entire nation like the USA, what we’re seeing in London is most likely being played out across the whole of England and probably most of Britain. Why? Because those same large businesses in the City of London have offices up & down the British Isles, and their policies will be extended to there, also.

US businesses rush in where British firms fear to tread

A guest post is by security specialist Paul Maloney, who discusses Social Network Profiles from a business perspective, highlighted some of the issues that businesses have to contend with when it comes to managing staff access to the internet, and to Social Networking websites like Facebook:

“In less than five years the office Christmas party photos have gone from being printed at the local chemist and shown to everyone through being e-mailed and shared on the office servers all the way to being blogged and Facebooked.”

It is probably an artifact of being British that we retreat from what those things that are perceived as being harmful without a second thought as to whether there may be greater benefits that could possibly outweigh the deficits.

Where in the US, it’s more characteristic to try something new, “kick the tyres” and perceiver, work through the initial problems and take a more holistic approach.

And that’s exactly what I’ve seen over the years, especially when I was looking for funding for a project of mine. In one instance, a guy representing a major government-funded organization that offers business advice said to me: “Problem is for you Wayne, there’s just no market for this web software thing.”

His views are even more laughable now than they were when he said them over two years ago. Sadly, his views are not isolated, either. This is a view that is shared and quite representative of the totally narrow outlook that British businesses have on the benefits and advantageousness of the internet.

If we deal with Facebook specifically, it’s a trickier proposition because businesses and their IT staff don’t have the same tools to control permissions like they would with their other internal resources.

I think that might be something Facebook might want to look into, which wouldn’t be too difficult:

  1. allow businesses to set up their own Groups or Pages;
  2. encourage all their staff to join;
  3. during office hours, any activities that are deemed business-related, linked to other members of staff and are public require approval and moderation by key staff.

That’s just a quick thinking through, but I’m sure there’d be some excellent ways to meet the needs of both businesses and their staff.

As an activity, Social Networking in the Britain is on the rise. This isn’t something businesses can simply ignore, or just ban outright. Do that, and they risk driving these activities underground, where their staff would seek out novel ways around network policies to remain active.

As for businesses, it’s time to get with the Social Networking game. Treating it as a marketing campaign, where experimentation isn’t just a good thing to do, but damn right mandatory, a lot could be learned by all.

The ‘Net benefit of buzzwords to businesses

A lot of the tools we arbitrarily label as “Web2.0” that some of this 70% of organizations are beginning to seriously consider existed long before buzzwords like Web2.0, Social Media and Social Networking popped into common vocabulary.

Most of these things can be achieved using good old-fashioned blogs, group chat clients and forums, all of which are tried & tested.

But if we look at these recent additions to our vocabulary as some kind of shared marketing campaign the raised awareness is helping businesses look at old tools in new ways, giving them much more attention.

The bottom line here is, British businesses need to start dealing with Social Networking & Social Media, or they’re going to fall even further behind at a time when the economics of business do not favour the shrewd the same way they do the brave…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.