Would Ben Franklin Tweet? How B2B Social Networking Kills Productivity.

I believe Ben Franklin would tweet if he were alive today.

But how often?

Once a day? Once an hour? And if he had a blog would he update it daily? Would he walk around with his face buried in a smart phone texting Jefferson and posting Twitter updates every hour of the day? Would he be a gamer?

Lets hope not because if so he would likely be just another Ben Franklin and not THE Ben Franklin. And we may not have sanitation and fire departments, library's, hospitals, universities, lightning rods or bifocal glasses.

Ok, a bit of an exaggeration. But really, if not managed properly, the Internet -- particularly social networking -- is a huge waste of time and drain on productivity. Yes, even for business use.

When Ben Franklin wrote his now famous “Thirteen Virtues" he included such things as temperance (eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation) and silence (speak not but what may benefit others or yourself). If Mr. Franklin were alive today he might add a 14th virtue to address the Internet and its accompanying vices. Or maybe he did with his "moderation" (avoid extremes) virtue.

At HRmarketer, we are huge advocates for using social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs) to build brand awareness, credibility, trust and thought leadership via sharing useful information through these mediums.

But it seems to have gotten out of hand.

Really out of hand.

Wait, you might argue, isn't there value in providing a continuous stream of industry information? Yes, and the businesses that do this best are called publishers. And contrary to what some experts say, HR vendors are not publishers.

True, many HR vendors produce articles and white papers and Tweet useful information on a regular basis as a part of their marketing. And they should (and you should too). But that doesn't make them publishers. I like to strum my guitar for an hour or so each day but that doesn't make me a musician. It's not my profession. And constant news distribution/publishing is not the profession or business purpose of HR vendors.

And from what I am seeing, a lot of marketing professionals in the HR space are going way overboard with their use of social networking - and it's likely costing their employer a lot in lost productivity.

If you work in marketing for an HR vendor and you find yourself thinking about tweeting every hour of the day you likely have a productivity problem. And you might be a candidate for Twitters Anonymous.

I recently conducted an informal survey with the CEOs and CMOs of HRmarketer's largest customers. What I found was interesting. Very few blogged or Tweeted - and most did not even have a Twitter account. Why, I asked? The response was typical - "because I'm too busy and don't have the time". All these companies are very successful and have very aggressive marketing - they just don't do much social networking. And apparently it is not hurting their business. I'd also be willing to wager that most HR buyers spend very little time on Twitter.

In an amusing yet somewhat sad article in the Wall Street Journal titled Your BlackBerry or Your Wife, there is a story about a mother and her children who unplugged everything with a screen for six months. For entertainment, they went to the movies, ate family meals, played board games and read the newspaper on Saturday mornings. The result? Her son rediscovered his saxophone. Her daughters began cooking and wrote a novel together.

What could you accomplish in your job if you gave up social networking and spent the time on more productive activities?

By the way, I'm no hypocrite. I admit that I too have an addiction. But awareness is the first step in recovery :-) In the time it took me to write this blog post (30-45 minutes) I could have made a sales call, scoped out some new HRmarketer.com software features or had a productive meeting with one of my direct-reports.

But I didn't because I felt pressured to write a blog post since I haven't written one in a few weeks.

Was it worth it?

Hard to tell, and that's an entirely different problem (measuring this stuff)!

Post by HRmarketer CEO Mark Willaman. Join Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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