Social Networking – The Other Side of The Story
By Marilyn Gettinger
Social Networking has moved quickly into business and social environments across the globe. It allows people to socialize or meet in a way unimaginable just a short time ago. Social networking provides an additional option for both organizational and personal communication in today’s downsized, do-more-with-less, far-flung workplaces. With staff doing more and working longer hours, it provides a quick way to stay in touch with family, friends, business acquaintances, and extended networks.

Without a doubt there are benefits to connecting with new people both professionally and socially, learning information about professional organizations, participating in blogs, providing work updates, making recommendations, joining discussion groups, advertising skills and knowledge, etc. But that is just one side of the story. There is another aspect that is filled with challenges. Unfortunately, there are people who have taken advantage of information shared in chat rooms or on social sites. This information has been used maliciously and dangerously. In addition, many young people have been lured into dangerous situations by a predator disguised as a friendly online contact. As a precaution, parents need to oversee their children’s activities on social network sites. It is critical to ensure that all social sites used have safety policies in place and that those policies are being enforced. Users need to manage who can view their information, whom they respond to, and what professional and personal information is available. People have been known to post argumentative, obnoxious, inflammatory, obscene, and vile remarks because they can be anonymous. Many sites try to tie a member’s identity to an email address in an effort to combat this bad behavior. However, these disruptive people may sign up with multiple email addresses to circumvent protective barriers.

Social networking creates an anonymous situation where people feel they can vent and express their frustrations, and “no one will know”. Many users post blogs or use chat rooms to make serious negative comments about others. Unfortunately, those comments, once discovered, have been damaging to work and family relationships. Users also communicate various, seemingly insignificant details about themselves, their lives, their friends, and family. The unethical know how to gain access to your social networking page. Criminals with time and money using sophisticated programs are able to see information once considered private, while it has become common practice for individuals to share too much on their social sites.

Another challenge is the learning curve needed to gain experience in using social networking, including identifying the right sites, uploading information, creating a profile, setting up contacts, joining groups, and ensuring safety of information. Many social sites have guidance and tools to help in this initial phase. It is like learning anything new: it takes effort, time, and practice – and must be maintained. After gaining a comfort level using social networks, the user now must devote considerable time to the networking process itself. It is just like networking in person except it is all online. A social networker will join various social sites, reach out for new contacts, communicate frequently, and perhaps update blogs, Linked-in pages, and the like. Staying in touch is important for successful social networking. It does not lend itself to a “hit-or-miss” philosophy. Another challenge is that others are also working their way along the learning curve and trying to schedule time to manage their various social sites. Surveys have identified that social adoption of sites is 35% or lower, and generational adoption rates are different as well. Not everyone has embraced this method of communication.

It is important to beware of what is said in a tweet or any social networking tool. Even if someone deletes a message, that message could have instantly spread and could be read by countless others. There are already instances where people have lost their positions due to a careless comment or other information on their own social site(s). 

Social networking has many uses as well as the challenges discussed above, plus others, and one size does not fit all. In other words, there are times when old fashioned face-to-face communication or even a telephone call is the right fit. Serious issues, disagreements, misunderstandings, and confrontational situations are best handled in person or over the phone, to avoid an escalating war of written words. It is also important to remember that social networking has no body language to enhance the communication process (unless you are on camera). Studies have shown that somewhere between 45 to 55 percent of all communication is through body language, 35 to 37 percent is the tone of voice, and only 7 to 10 percent is in the actual words used.

The lessons to remember here? Social networking is a great tool - as well as a great danger. It is here to stay, and people need to embrace it. However, users need to be aware of both sides of the story.

This article is part of the monthly series authored by ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, trainers, and educators. In future columns, they will continue sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain topics.

Marilyn Gettinger is the owner of New Directions Consulting Group, which offers customized workshops and a team-oriented consulting method to assist organizations in being successful in their global supply chain management efforts. She can be reached at, or (908) 709-0656, or