Facebook critique stretches credulity

 First it was Second Life that came under a microscope of criticism from the mainstream media questioning its business value.

FacebookNow it’s the turn of social networking site Facebook.

If a report from Australia is to be believed, Facebook costs Australian businesses AUS$5 billion a year in lost productivity.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

[…] Richard Cullen of SurfControl, an internet filtering company, [says]  “Our analysis shows that Facebook is the new, and costly, time-waster.”

[…] The report calculates that if an employee spends an hour each day on Facebook, it costs the company more than $6200 a year. There are about 800,000 workplaces in Australia.

“There are Facebook groups dedicated to slacking off at work,” Dr Cullen said. “Some of them are specific to employees of a single company.”

If this overall story stretches your credulity, there is a bit of balance.

The same newspaper has another report (which contains more or less the same content as this one) which says:

“Some employers are blocking the sites, while others have embraced the new, global networking capability and are setting down times when it’s acceptable to Facebook,” Dr Cullen said.

“If appropriate filters are in place, employees are able to use sites like Facebook and Myspace in their downtime without putting the network at risk.”

That’s the bit I’d pay more attention to.

[Later edit] BusinessWeek has a report in this week’s edition entitled “Facebook’s New Wrinkles.”

The report discusses how US workers aged 35 and over are discovering Facebook and how they use it.

An interesting factoid:

The number of unique Facebook visitors 35 and older more than doubled in June from a year ago, to 11.5 million, according to market researcher comScore Media Metrix. (Anyone going to the Facebook.com site counts as a visitor. But to have a page or have friends, you need to join.) Most newcomers aren’t yet doing much real business there, preferring more buttoned-down sites like LinkedIn or e-mail for maintaining professional contacts. But they’re intrigued enough with the communications potential of Facebook that they now make up 41% of the site’s visitors.

A far more useful feature to read about Facebook.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Kevin Dugan

    It would always seem wiser to acknowledge something exists and set guidelines around it vs. trying to stop access or ignore it alltogether.

    Facebook provides no bandwidth or questionable content as far as corporations are concerned. The guidelines would be simple to create.

    Same goes for other social media sites.

  2. Phil's Blogservations

    Neville, Facebook, Australia, Coffee…

    If people applied these methodologies to the average office coffeepot, they’ll probably discover that the humble appliance results in six figures worth of lost productivity on a per-company, per-annum basis….

  3. Francis Wooby

    Is anyone aware of efforts to measure business benefits of Facebook? Are there at least any ballpark guesses about new business it may have generated, competitive insights it’s provided, new employees/strategic partners that came by way of Facebook, etc.?

  4. Mike Keliher

    This strikes me as little more than lazy journalism. SurfControl crunched some numbers and the “analysis” got reported. But it’s obviously a most crude generalization — all time spent on Facebook is wasted time in the employers’ eyes. I know it’s not an Australian company, but do you think the folks at PodTech consider the time Scoble spends on Facebook to be a waste? How about politicians running for office? How about the people at SHIFT Communications? All seem to be using Facebook as if it provided business value.

  5. neville

    Francis, I’ve not yet seen any such research, just the negative-focus of mainstream media reporting. But someone surely must be doing such research.

    It got a lot of people talking, Mike.

    Thanks for that link, Sam. I’d love to be there but can’t due to another commitment. Hoping you’ll twitter it ;)

    Steve, such publicity isn’t stopping the sign up growth for Facebook. So in that sense, I’m sure Facebook are quite happy with the attention at the moment.

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