Facebook: Productivity Boost or Bane?

Posted by Lior Weinstein on Tuesday, Sep 4th, 2007
Category : Uncategorized

Regular readers will have seen how I saved a big percentage of time by cutting out unnecessary distractions. One area I am struggling with though is keeping up with my contacts. Actually, to be more specific, Facebook.

Facebook has the potential to benefit productivity. It keeps you up to date with your contacts all in one nice and tidy space. On one page you can get a good overview of what your friends are up to, and get birthday reminders, and such. While I also use LinkedIn, Facebook is much more active with people sharing far more information than just their contact details and where they are working right now.

The problem is that benefit also has a downside. Richness of information and regular updates can become overwhelming:

  • Random email notifications – You get notified with an email whenever someone sends you a message or does something where your interaction might be required. The more contacts you have the more of these you will get.
  • Adding “friends” who I don’t really know – Bloggers meet (actually or virtually) lots of people. Some of those will want to connect on Facebook. While you will want to keep up with people the sheer number of people who add friends randomly cascades. Right now Robert Scoble has 5,000 friends. How does he get anything done?
  • Friends who are particularly noisy – Talking of Mr Scoble, he updates a lot. (In)famously so. The problem with noisy friends is there is so much cruft in your updates you can miss things that turn out to be important. All you can do is tune them down or drop them as friends. Not great.
  • Trivial but fun applications – Self-control is not one of my best attributes. Somebody uses a Facebook Zombie application to “bite me” and I am going to check it out. Another friend ask me to compare music and film tastes, I sign up. Anything new and shiny has the potential to send my productivity into a dive. Problem is, Facebook is full of this stuff and my friends lap it up … and send them to me.
  • Keeping up with discussions – Facebook is a social site. It is a social site populated with your friends. Friends talk. A lot. Just what we need, another place to talk about stuff instead of getting on with work!
  • Yet another messaging venue – Kind of related to the above, Facebook is a place where people communicate. As if email, phone, skype and instant messaging were not enough, we can also get bombarded with Facebook messages. And obviously because you have declared these people as friends it feels rude to ignore them.

The thing about this stuff is it is only going to get worse. That bit about friends being noisy? Some people are doing it on purpose, because Facebook can help build your profile and get your stuff some attention. It’s called Social Media Optimization. It could be, particularly in the circles I run in, that it isn’t just noise it’s optimization.

All this optimization or self promotion will just add to the social media fatigue.

I’m not convinced it is even that great a promotional tool for content because there are so few outbound links, Facebook is after all a walled-garden with very few leaks. It might be a good way to promote yourself but in the end I think this sort of “push” promotion will just annoy.

There is a huge community on Facebook, and it is a patently visible that there really are tons of people on there. Many businesses are testing the waters for their marketing. One of those businesses was a small concern called Walmart, who dropped thousands of dollars on a campaign. For those with the time and inclination to max it out I can see the opportunities are there for the taking. I’m just not sure I can keep up with it.

Are you a Facebook fan or a Facebook doubter? Let me know in the comments …

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