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What a difference a week makes – Twitter now costs us money!

October 30th, 2009 by Lloyd Gofton

Last week I enjoyed a long awaited holiday, and took the decision to step away from the social web for a while to refresh and recharge. It worked well, but it seems the world changes dramatically in a week.

Top of the list of changes during the last week for me was the revelation that apparently Twitter costs the UK economy £1.38bn per year, that’s pretty good for a free service.

This figure, which was fairly widely covered at the beginning of this week, originated from a survey of 1460 UK office workers for IT services and technology company Morse.

Philip Wicks, consultant at Morse, speaking in the Telegraph said the true cost to the economy could be substantially higher than the £1.38bn estimate.

“When someone is asked for their own use they say around 40 minutes a week, but when asked about their colleagues they say they say up to an hour a day. We have used the lower of those figures rather than the high point.

“It is the sort of thing people constantly use which means that its not quite the same as doing a crossword, where you spend half an hour on it and it is finished. When it comes to an office environment the use of these sites is clearly becoming a productivity black hole.

“Social networking can be a cause for good when it is used professionally but I think organisations need to wake up – that is not the way it is always being used.”

Okay, so employees do use Twitter while at work to catch up with their friends and of course some will over do this, but isn’t this only a very small part of the story? What about the positive effects of Twitter and social media as a whole on the UK economy? And are we saying employees didn’t skive off before Twitter was accessible in the work place?

Of course I realise this survey is a PR-focused tactic to propel the brand into a number of high profile media outlets, therefore the results should be taken with a pinch of salt, but the reporting all seems to follow the rather dramatic angle of going for the scare tactic, rather than the balanced opinion. Even the comments in the Telegraph piece show the frustrations of the readers.

So, for a more balanced opinion I turned away from the mainstream and a quick search turns up two much more relevant evaluations of this research from econsultancy and Drew Benvie who makes a great point that: The IT supplier that released this research seems to have done little more than show how out of touch it is with a generation and demographic which simply uses different ways to communicate, for business, personally, and shock horror, for both together when the two mix…..Exactly!

I don’t think this research will be taken seriously, in fact it may harm the brand a little more than they had first considered. Even if we take the figure at face value, I’m sure if we were to ask a similar sample of businesses how much they feel has been made, both financially and through good will/contacts, information, customer service and communicating directly to their market/customers via Twitter, the profit would vastly outweigh the loss.

The simple truth is that social networks and wider online communications is how the UK economy is going to be making a good percentage of its money in the future, so to suggest it is a cost rather than a benefit is the real scandal.

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