A certain media organisation in Dubai has blocked its staff from using Facebook during working hours.
This is interesting.
I have spent quite a lot of time evangelising 'social media' and the proper use of these increasingly important tools in a professional context. If you want, incidentally, to learn more about social media and leading edge innovation in web-based technologies, do subscribe to partner in crime Carrington's Insane Web 2.0 Bonkers Twitter Feed.
Banning Facebook means that the journalists and researchers working for that organisation are just a little bit more disempowered than their peers. My colleagues use Facebook extensively as a social tool, but also as a business tool. Much as their relationships with media, analysts, consultants and clients often extend into social relationships (we work with people we like, right? We do business over lunch, drinks or shisha, right?), the boundary between work and social has never been more fuzzy. For instance, we had a suhour event last night where people stayed way into the early hours (PRs and journalists alike) because they wanted to. Because they wanted to catch up, share information, gossip, put the world to rights and all the rest of it.
No more or less, in fact, than we do on Facebook.
Last year we found ourselves needing to conduct a flash survey to get the picture on broadband adoption in the region. The guys sent out surveys to their Facebook contacts, result: 100 regional answers back that afternoon and a reasonable 'snapshot' sample of the situation we wanted to evaluate. A couple of weeks ago a journalist we wanted to contact wasn't in town and wasn't roaming on his mobile - but he was on Facebook. Result: we got through, had the conversation and did business. There are a large number of examples like this: Facebook is an extension of our 'analogue' social relationships in an age where social relationships are being complicated by the availability of new tools.
Consider this. You tell John that Peter is your good friend. 'Wow,' says John. 'That's lucky, because I really need to speak to him! Do you have his mobile number?'
And you don't. What's John's first inference about your friendship? Likely that you've been telling porkies and that you're not really good friends wiht Peter at all. You'd have a friend's mobile, right? Of course you would: although the tool itself has nothing to do with the depth or success of a relationship, it is a tool that we all use as part of the broad communications toolset we have today. It's almost inconceivable that you wouldn't be calling or texting friends - and the same is likely true of business contacts.
Facebook is not actually that interesting. It's just another communication tool. In any business where relationships are important, for instance in PR or in journalism, Facebook is an extension of our communications toolset - it adds another dimension to our ability to communicate effectively. And that is particuarly true if we are taking a role in a community of people that are using that tool themselves.
Banning Facebook in the workplace as policy is not only myopic and doomed to failure, it is disempowering. Better to encourage the use of Facebook and other, similar, networking tools in a working context to support better, smarter communications for your people. Banning it is, as Ammouni tells us, 'hiding behind your finger'.