Is Social Media Taking Over Your Workday? Maybe It Should.

Michael Rander

How much time would you guess the average Internet user (aged 16-64) spends on social networks per day?

The answer, according to GlobalWebIndex (2015), is a staggering 1.72 hours, or 28% of their total average daily internet usage which is now up to 6.14 hours per day.

office group in discussion using social media

While an impressive statistic on its own, what intrigued me about the number was the fact that Nielsen published similar data from 2007, when that number was 2.17 hours – not per day, but per month. That translates into roughly a 24x increase in social media usage from 2007 to 2015. No question, social media now takes up a significant chunk of our days.

Obviously technology has changed, and our private lives have changed with it, with the average person now having 5+ social networking accounts. But what does say about how we work now, and what does it mean for the future of work?

First, it means that companies need to adapt to a changing engagement and communication model. Employees are used to constant access to social networks in the private sphere, and they will increasingly demand similar direct access to information, knowledge networks, instant communication with each other, and open access to management in the workplace. The days when everything passed through every single level in the organizational hierarchy are gone, and a much higher level of simplicity, transparency, and open communication must be established.

Our need for direct, real-time communication and a more efficient way of dealing with the deluge of information is driven by a need to engage at a deeper level with our surroundings and finding interest what we do. If we cannot get the quick overview, gather the information we need, get an instant reaction from the relevant people, and tap into our personal passions in what we do, chances are we will disengage.  Social media allows us to do these things, so naturally we are looking for the same in our workplace.

Additionally, as the usage of social media goes up, companies need to face this key fact: 74% of consumers now rely on social media to influence their purchasing decisions, according to CeBit. That means that if your company is not able to adapt and react to that reality, you are already losing the battle for customer engagement, and ultimately for the market.

As a consequence, the “social business,” which aims to connect employees, partners, vendors, customers, and businesses through technology, is increasingly trying to achieve these goals. By working as a social business and using a platform that leverages the best of our private social media usage patterns, companies are not only reacting to a changing workforce, but reinventing themselves and their business processes.

If they are successful, key benefits include a higher level of transparency, which brings a higher level of organizational trust as well as knowledge sharing. It creates the possibility of deeper real-time relationships both internally and externally as well as the capability to engage customers with relevant content before they make a decision about their next purchase/vendor. Last but certainly not leas, it actively improves the organization’s ability to attract and retain new top talent, who clearly value all of the above when choosing an employer.

The problem is that 80% of those efforts will not achieve the intended benefits in the near term, according to Gartner. On the business side, the problem is most often found in the execution of the social business strategy, with “inadequate leadership and overemphasis on technology.” If the executive leadership of an organization is not living and breathing the new social business strategy and leading by example, the needed organizational behavioral change will not happen (see this related white paper by Bill Jensen). Likewise, the technology is only as good as the organizational adoption, which stresses the need for work patterns that align with our private social media usage patterns: We use only what we find intuitive, useful, and fun.

So if your workday is getting more social by the hour, you and your company might just be on the right track. Collaboration, transparency, and engagement will be key to customers and employees alike, and they will drive market share to those who can successfully navigate the necessary organizational and leadership changes. The truly social business sets a high bar for simplifying the way we work, interact, and collaborate, and takes the best from our private sphere to make it work for employees in the work sphere. Are you there yet?

For more thought leadership on where the workplace is headed, see The Future Of Work: Understand, Prepare, And Innovate.

The Future of Work is being by a number of trends, is one trend more important than the other? Is your business strategy aligned to any of them? We want to hear from you! Help us discover these answers and more by taking this 5 minute survey!

About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Research Director for Future of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, and operations manager, as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler, and entrepreneur.