By Amy Dixon
In the new age of communication, businesses communicate with consumers and markets, through many mediums but social networks have gained importance in recent years. As the world is ever being globalised, we are beginning to see how these networks are used within organisations to improve the efficiency of internal communications. Mobility and speed are key aspects of modern day organisations and social networks have allowed flexibility and simplicity to be reinstalled into commutation.
Since the late 1990s emails have revolutionised communication in the workplace and have been an integral part of how organisations communicate. Years later, emails are limited by norms, speed and technology. All conversations are undifferentiated and individuals are left with a heap of different tasks with no order, context or priorities. Conversations can be slow, which in turn slows all other processes within an organisation. While some changes have been made to change and help these issues, emails have now become a ‘chore’ for many organisations and businesses are looking to different methods of communication.
Some argue the answer is social networks. They are used by many businesses to connect with customers and clients, so why can’t they be used for internal communications? Many have already incorporated different networks into their communication techniques. For example, both WhatsApp and Facebook messenger are used to hold instant conversations in the workplace. These allow fast communications, speeding up actions within organisations. They have the benefit of, in the case of WhatsApp, more than 1 billion active users meaning most of the workforce would need little to no training on how to use. This along with the simplicity of the service means that the cost of communicating via the service is next to nothing plus it takes advantage of a user base that already exists.
However, the issue of organisation of work is still there. Whilst multiple ‘threads’ or ‘groups’ can be made, categorising conversations, it wasn’t designed specifically for the use of work environments and therefore can still have the issues of organisation. Businesses also have no control over the technology so cannot make restrictions or control to content, raising issues. To overcome this some companies have attempted to create their own social media networks. This way the content can be controlled, and arguably a work-life balance can be created. Networks like Facebook can be kept solely for social use and the company’s own network only for work related communication.
Facebook has tried to top it all with its launch of Facebook at work. Integrating the benefits of the already existing network with the control and work applications businesses require. It looks a lot like the consumer edition, meaning it is familiar for users, but it contains a lot of specifically created features that help the understanding of a workplace and its communications. For example, analytic techniques can be used, key influencers identified and information about who and when content has been viewed can be obtained. The aim is to create a more connected workplace and in turn becoming a more productive workplace. Will it become widely used?
So the question is, will social networks mean the end of emails in the workplace? Well, this is difficult, many believe that eventually emails will die out, and communication will be taken over by more instant messaging tools. However, while some communication may move to an instant service, it may be that more formal communications may remain over email. The only problem is continuity across email and social network, can the two forms be integrated? Will Facebook at work tackle this?