Facebook logoOn the strength of a report by the company Linkme, which describes itself online as “an online career resource”, it has been claimed that online social networking site Facebook use is costing Australian employers $2,700 (US$2365.41) per employee per year. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, not to let a few hundred dollars get in the way of a good story, rounded the AU$2,700 to $3,000: which gives a much better headline, not just for the DT but also for the other Murdoch papers that carried the story – Facebook addicts each cost $3000 a year.

Shades of the story back in August, which Mashable covered succintly and acerbicly with the post “Fuzzy Math: Facebook Costs Australia $4 Billion in Lost Productivity.

Ironically, LinkMe, the latest Aussie company to weigh in on the Facebook is costing employers money story, has a featured article on its website, Networking is socialising is networking, promoting networking as a way to enhance a career.

Letting people know what you’re up to and what you want to be doing, is the most effective way to get your name heard by prospective employers.

So how do people network? Well, especially for younger people, one of the things they do is spend time on social networking sites – like Facebook! D’oh! and they should be expected to do it all after hours?

Let’s get a grip here.

For many of us, the career-building equivalent in times past was time on the phone. And I know that there was at least one very good job I got largely on the strength of my network in a particular industry: a network which was to a great extent built and maintained by phone, during business hours. Evidently the new employer thought that was worth something to the enterprise, because I was selected over at least one insider who was thought to have the job in the bag. The head honcho happened to be a consummate networker himself and I doubt he did all his telephone networking “after hours”.

Twitter logoBut while some HR managers and CEOs, having picked up on Friday’s news, are no doubt launching investigations this week about employees’ use of Facebook, the real game might now be on Twitter. For a lot of us tweeters, Facebook is so 2007. But Twitter is something else.

Florian Seroussi and his colleague Pat Phelan have done some calculations on usage rates of Twitter, drawing on statements by various people about how much time they spend on Twitter. They sum up their calculations as follows:

Our estimates for 2008 suggest @ a minimum lost productivity cost of $20/hour this will represent $300M/month so $900M for first quarter, $600M per month for 2nd quarter so $1.8B, $1.2b per month for 3rd quarter so $3.6b and $2.4b/month for 4th quarter so $7.2b.

I’m not sure that I actually get the math here, but, as I see it, the point of the exercise is that they conclude that there is a cost to the economy, in terms of paid but unproductive time, of some $13.8 billion over a full year.

And then, Oh my, isn’t that the valuation that was put on Facebook recently?

At one level, it’s all a bit of a giggle.

The worry is that some employers who do not get what is happening with social networking – ok, that may mean most employers – will seize on this sort of commentary and block their employees’ access to social networking sites. Thereby depriving them of the oxygen of their networks. In turn, for some employment roles at least, making the employees less effective, actually or potentially, in the new networked economy.

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