Twitter – time waster or valuable resource?

A dual resource – social media for work and personal reasons

Twitter excites and frightens people all at once! This blog looks at its positives and how it can be abused. Responses are invited!

Twitter is part of this amazing social media evolution. As a relative newcomer to using social media on a daily basis more for work than socialising, I am seeing every day how useful it can be. It keeps me up-to-date on many areas I need to know about my line of work and has put me in direct contact with key figures around the world and across disciplines.

On the flip side there is the potential to spend every waking minute reading tweets, Facebook comments, blogs, websites and news items; watching videos, listening to podcasts, uploading phootos and downloading music. There is so much to see and do that we could do just this and never get bored!

However, most of us have jobs and should be concentrating on these during work hours. The line is getting increasingly blurred though as a large proportion of people need to use the internet and email for work reasons and by default then have access to social media. Furthermore, some of us are required to use all of these media as part of our work – and will also be involved at a personal level.

Newly converted to Twitter

I have been using email and the internet for work reasons for many years. Email is a tool that we all use extensively both for work and personal reasons.  I set up my Facebook site in 2006 purely for personal reasons to share my travel photos with friends dotted around the globe. But Twitter and blogging never appealed to me. I am the type of person who doesn’t spend any more time on computers than necessary and was not quick to purchase a cell phone because I am not keen on chatting on the phone except to make arrangements and say goodbye.

I started using Twitter and set up a personal blog just a few months ago purely for work reasons. Part of me was sceptical and I felt like it was a bit of a navel gazing exercise and I did not expect to jump on the bandwagon singing its praises. Now I am like the converted non-smoker – raving on to people about the upsides of these media.

Emerging issues surrounding social media participation – personal versus work usage

Growing issues are coming from both directions – on the one hand, people wasting work time by spending time participating in social media; on the other, having the use of social media for work reasons impinging on people’s own time as some are expected to keep an online presence whether during work hours or not.

I believe it comes down the age-old argument that some people will do the right thing and some people won’t. Therefore the article appearing in the New Zealand Herald entitled “Is Twitter a small business time waster?” brought two opposite reactions from me – I agree and I disagree – and it depends on the responsibility of the individual – a dying art it seems.

I know from my point of view I need to have a presence on Twitter and the more that I do, the more I appreciate its vastness; its reach both geographically and across all sections of society; its timeliness; and the relationship building that is at the heart of any successful venture. I start to feel a little guilty if I don’t see what people are saying for a few days, and participate in some way, just like feeling guilty for not calling on my friends. Twitter helps me in several ways:

  • It has connected me with people and organisations that I would not have connected with otherwise.
  • I have followers, and I follow people, who are interested in the same issues and news items.
  • Through these links I have shared research and discussions and news with people, and vice versa.
  • I feel more on top of relevant events and concerns than I ever have.
  • My work reaches more people directly in a short space of time than it otherwise would.
  • I have asked people to provide information and it has been tweeted around until someone has assisted me, and I have also answered other people’s queries.
  • Through Twitter I have advertised my blogs and my readership has grown.

Twitter to me is like having a newspaper designed purely for you. You interact only with people you choose. I have started to follow some people who are clearly not using this medium for the purposes listed above but just want to tell me that they are making a coffee, or they might be going for a walk later. I have blocked a few navel gazers and people who are those who would bore you in the flesh and are using Twitter to spread their useless banter.

There is also the social and personal value of these media, including Twitter:

  • Sharing experiences, thoughts, daily events, achievements, photos, and so on with friends and family around the globe.
  • Having a much closer relationship with people you may not see often or at all.
  • Keeping a record of your own photos, contact information, news feeds and so on, online so it is easy to access when you want it.
  • Finding out about issues, events and discussions of interest to you and making links with people and entities you might not otherwise come across.

As with the list for the positives for business usage, I am sure I have missed off positives for personal usage. The point is, these media have a variety of applications for both. How you choose to use them is up the individual. I am trying to keep my Twitter presence and blog predominantly work-related and my Facebook site personal but it is getting more difficult as people send work links to my Facebook site and friends want me to link to them on Twitter.

Do social media waste work time?

I ask this question as it was raised in the article in the New Zealand Herald with regard to Twitter – the answer I am afraid is not a hard one: Yes or no depending on the person.

I wrote my recent blog entitled “Blog, tweet, FB – and even better if it’s for free” from the other side of the argument – to invite discussion as to whether some people felt that using social media for work reasons was impinging on their lesiure time and yet not recognised as real work by employers.

The person who uses these media irresponsibly and wastes work time doing personal correspondence that does not benefit the company – I think these were the people who years ago would have taken the maximum number of smokos, made personal calls during work time, and employed every trick in the book to make their life easier rather than put their employer first and do the work for which they are being paid. They will write a few too many personal emails and are probably those people who send on joke emails all the time. We have all known people like this. Social media is another outlet for them.

Those who have a responsible work ethic will only engage in personal correspondence during work time when they are on their break and will do the bulk of it outside of work time. There is a balance. Answering a personal email or two during the day should be acceptable and the same should be true of using other social media.

There is a blurring of the line when you need to use these media for work reasons, which I certainly do. I have to be a responsible adult and be true to myself and know that if I am using these media during work hours, I am doing them for work reasons. If I simply want to converse with friends I can do this on my break time or after work. Since I do use these media outside of work hours for work reasons to keep on top of conversations or to blog or check news stories, there is some leeway both ways.

A responsible individual will get the balance right. A bludger will always take advantage of the system. Twitter is incredible and a very exciting resource both for personal and business use. But as with anything, there are always people out to abuse and take advantage. This does not detract from the value of social media. It is a shame if companies have to start banning its use during work time due to the irresponsible people who – for the whole of time – have spoiled things for everyone else – laws are introduced to protect the many from the few. I can understand if some companies start to do this. I do lament the need for more straitjackets on society because of the few. The Nanny State is something we all have complained about – but how else do we pull the bludgers into line?

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About tigchandler

English-born, lived several years in Wellington, NZ, then in Adelaide, South Australia, and recently moved back to New Zealand. With an economics background, I have worked in researching wine consumption patterns, marketing, economics and social media at the University of Adelaide. I also worked a vintage and in wineries in McLaren Vale so have seen both the research/analytical side of the industry and the practical/hands-on side. I have retail experience and many ongoing industry links all around Australia and overseas. This blog reflects my ongoing passion for everything related to the wine industry.
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