Social Media and Business Decision

Given the overwhelming flow of information, both vital and utterly trivial, available to all of us 24/7, has it become easier or harder to make business decisions? Is social media helpful or just another distraction?

The recent study by Forbes Insights and global ideas shop gyro, “The @Work State of Mind Project,” examined these questions. The results show that executives are pretty evenly divided on whether making business decisions has become easier or harder over the past few years. But those who say it has gotten easier include more of those who use social media of all sorts for business purposes. And no, this doesn’t break down along the generational lines that you, dear reader, probably expect.

Who Has Control Over Your Time? Brenna Sniderman Forbes Staff

(While executives were almost evenly divided on the ease/difficulty issue, they agreed by a 3-to-1 margin that they are making better decisions today)

So even if the process is harder, it’s presumably worth it.) First, let’s step back a moment. To quote from one of the study’s key findings: “Social networks are important for conducting business. About two in three respondents (67%) said that such work-related networks play a significant role in business, and 56% said that personal social networks influence their determinations. But business-related networks are clearly more important than ones more focused on personal life.”

Indeed, more-traditional resources were ranked higher than social networks in importance by executives: Industry-specific websites were ranked highest, followed by trade publications and then sources of general business news.

To shed even more light, we need to dive deep into the results of the survey that underpins the study, a survey of 543 executives in the U.S. and Europe. When we look at the question of business decisions becoming easier or harder, a distinct pattern emerges. What does it mean? My personal guess is that those who are most comfortable absorbing information continually from a wide variety of (mostly digital) sources and processing it through multiple modes are least overwhelmed by the endless onslaught—they even find it helpful.

They prioritize and evaluate the information flow as a matter of course, according the appropriate weight to various sources of data with barely a conscious thought. Fifty-two percent of those who think business decisions have become easier to make use personal social networks, such as Facebook, at least occasionally for work-related decisions; only 38% of those who say decisions are now harder do so. In fact, almost half of those who say decisions are harder don’t use personal social networks at all, versus 28% of those who say decisions are easier. Seventy-seven percent of the easier camp use business-related networks like LinkedIn for work decisions at least sometimes; 67% of the harder contingent do so. Fifty-eight percent of those who think decisions are easier at least occasionally watch a web video as part of work-related decisions; only 44% of those who think decisions are harder do so. The pattern continues, even beyond work-related usage. There’s not much difference between the two groups in use of work-related blogs, but blogs related to personal interests reveal a wide gap. Of those who say decisions are easier, 59% read or write such blogs (or both); only 40% of the decisions-are-harder bunch do so. And for all you ageists out there, here’s the contrarian part: There’s no generational distinction whatsoever between the easier versus harder decision groups. Millennials, Gen X’ers, Boomers—it makes no difference.

Each generation is equally divided on the easier/harder question. So if you’re an anti-social network curmudgeon of any age, maybe you should consider throwing in the towel on Facebook avoidance, or join the rest of the world and start blogging. If nothing else, it might make your business decisions seem easier. –

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