It absolutely makes me crazy when I hear some of my peers discussing how they are "putting the clamps" on their employees being able to use Facebook and YouTube at work.
They act as if they are doing their organizations a public service by stopping their employees from "wasting their time" while at work. Looking at social media as a frivolous activity is shortsighted for many reasons.
First of all, many younger workers have a very different view of work than we baby boomers do (I'm 53 years old so I am on the tail end of this generation). We were taught that work was work and that you lived your life once you left the office. Today's new workforce has a different (and healthier) view of work/life balance. They want to work in an environment where they can bring their whole selves to work and where there are not artificial barriers constructed between what they can do in their work lives and what they can do in their personal lives. The lines have blurred and we can either embrace that or fight it but it is a losing battle.
Secondly, looking at social media as "fun and games" is very shortsighted. Think about how much money marketing departments used to invest in focus groups to learn more about what the consumers of their companies' products and services thought about them. Social media creates the opportunity for access to an unlimited and unbiased focus group -- all of your actual consumers.
You can directly interact with your customers to learn what they like and dislike about doing business with you and what products and services they would like to see you create to serve their needs. In terms of customer service, you can learn real-time about negative trends and product problems, and communicate broadly your plans to address them. You can learn what people are saying about your organization and have a voice in this dialogue. What could be more business-focused than that?
Also, social media is how people interact today. We provide opportunities to play in organized tennis events. One of the best ways to attract new players is to let them know that their friends and colleagues are already enjoying our leagues and tournaments. After all, like-minded people want to hang out and be active with their friends, and social media provides an opportunity to keep their friends abreast of what activities they are enjoying and participating in.
Thinking that social media is a kid's game is also a mistake. Studies show the average Facebook client is a 50-year-old woman! Many of our key target audiences are on social media platforms. What's easier -- getting them to come to our sites to check out what we want them to know, or having a presence where they already "live" and being a meaningful part of their community?
Social media is not a toy. It is not a waste of time. It is a proven opportunity to engage with the people you are trying to influence in a non-threatening way that they are comfortable with. We can either be a part of their world or wonder why they aren't becoming a part of ours.