Friday, 19 August 2011

Social media at work - Facebook

 I don't think there is any doubt nowadays that social media - for better or worse - has become a part of our working lives. Those of who have been following some of my other posts will be well aware that in this particular law library - and indeed law firm - all social networking sites are blocked. To my knowledge, there are no plans to review or change this policy going forward. Yet what with taking part in cpd23, and reading so much about ways to engage with social media, I am more aware of it than ever, but definitely think it is a concept that many law firms simply don't know how best to handle - therefore it's safer to remove the issue altogether, as fears of employees tainting the brand/employees frittering away precious time continue to grow.
Because of the fact that websites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in our office, I always pay particular attention to articles discussing the pros and cons of using such media in the workplace - therefore I enjoyed a recent post on the Stephen's Lighthouse library industry blog titled Infographic: Social Media Policies in the Workplace, in which he refers to a post from the Marketing Technology Blog that discussed the results of a survey into social media in the workplace.

It was very interesting to note that in this global survey, approx 70% stated that social networking sites were actively blocked in their workplace, and more than half of the respondents stated that there is a policy in place regarding social networking - and often usage inside AND outside of work. However, a quick search of our Intranet here in the UK did not retrieve any mentions of social networking practices at all. Could it simply be that there is an unspoken assumption that employees should not use social media in a way that could damage our firm's reputation and so on; in other words, it's a kind of 'common sense' policy?

Having worked in a few different law firms over the last few years as social media usage has increased dramatically, the one thing that initially all of the firms had in common was that they were completely against it being used in the workplace. In one of my previous firms, one of the reasons given for certain sites being blocked was simply that it would encourage time wasting and potentially lead to the network becoming overloaded. It's hard to say whether this would be the case, but given the fact that I sometimes log in to Facebook for 5 minutes -and then 30 minutes later I am still on there - it's a fair point! However, attitudes in the legal domain have slowly but surely been evolving - an article last year in Legal Week is testament to this: Social media grows - new survey show more acceptance of technology among lawyers. An annual survey of the American Bar members showed the following:

"Large firm respondents were the most likely to report personally maintaining a presence in an online community/social network (63%). The highest percentage of respondents reported maintaining a presence in LinkedIn (83%), followed by Facebook (68%), Plaxo (18%), Connected (4%), LawLink (2%), Twitter (2%), Avvo, LegalOnRamp, and LegallyMinded (1% each) and 4% other social networking websites."

It seems to me that the advent of LinkedIn has definitely helped to increase acceptance of social networking in law firms. Often dubbed the 'professional' version of Facebook, it is worth noting that I have never known this site to be blocked, although the fundamental concept and means of using the site is very similar to Facebook.

It is also worth noting that every law firm I have worked at has also had a 'network' on Facebook which employees can join - something which I find a bit contradictory, in all honesty. What's the point of having a network that is potentially a marketing tool, on a site to which staff only have access out of the office? To me this highlights the reason why I feel that your Facebook life and your work life should never be mixed - if the boundaries become blurry, it potentially makes people feel that they can't ever get away from 'work'. Even though I barely ever post any comments on Facebook at all - so there is nothing on there that would offend them - I still don't ever join my employers' networks on there - it's just a bit too 'Big Brother' for my liking.

However, I am well aware that I am often in the minority camp with these opinions when it comes to fellow law librarians! Information professionals in general appear to be at the forefront of the social media revolution - the fact that cpd23 has attracted so many participants is tantamount to the interest the profession has in staying up to date with such technologies. I am certainly not against social networking per se in the workplace; I just think that there's a forum for 'social' social networking (Facebook), and a forum for professional networking (LinkedIn). I am happy to market my personal brand and indeed employer on LinkedIn, but don't feel the need to do that elsewhere. In addition to that, I think there are some firms which are more suited to marketing themselves on Facebook - for example the leisure industry...but I don't think it's quite the same for a corporate law firm!

By the way, I realise that we haven't really covered the use of Twitter in the law library - and on a broader level the law firm...think we'll save that one for another day!

 Image courtesy of:


  1. I agree that Facebook isn't really suited to professional networking - and I certainly wouldn't join an employer's Facebook network! I also don't friend people I work with, I think it's important to keep some boundaries between work life and social life.

    Just an observation on LinkedIn - like you, I've never worked anywhere that blocked LinkedIn (and I've worked in places with pretty draconian blocking rules!). However, it was pointed out at a marketing seminar I went to a while back that LinkedIn is pretty heavily used by recruiters for headhunting. The speaker pointed out the contradiction in blocking Facebook for fear of employees wasting time when they should be working, but not blocking LinkedIn where they could easily be job hunting instead of working! I think it was tongue in cheek - he didn't actually seem in favour of blocking either - but I thought it was an interesting point to consider.

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