Another survey about the cost of social network use is doing the rounds today, this one suggesting that workers' use of Twitter and other social networks costs the UK economy £1.34bn in wasted time.

As with many of these types of surveys, on social network use during work, or using worktime for Christmas shopping, fails to take shrinking lunchtimes into account, as well as the potential benefits of having employees using Twitter.

IT and technology firm Morse commissioned the report (covered in The Telegraph this morning), and labels the use of social networks in work time as a 'productivity black hole'.

It calculates, based on a survey of 1,460 office workers, that an average of 40 minutes per week is spent on personal use of Twitter, meaning a loss on £1.38bn for the economy.

Taken in isolation this figure may seem surprising, but it fails to take other factors into account.

For one thing. the lunchtimes of the UK's workers have been shrinking over the past few years, with the average lunch break now just 28 minutes, which suggests that a lot of employees are working through their lunch breaks, and giving back more than the 40 minutes per week lost to Facebook and Twitter.

Also, the postive effects of social network use for UK business are not taken into account. I'd like to see a report that calculates how much the UK economy benefits from this. We can certainly vouch for its effectiveness at Econsultancy, as our Twitter Case Study explains. 

According to the survey, three quarters of the office workers surveyed said their employer had not given them any specific guidelines on how to use Twitter, which suggests that some businesses need to get some policies in place.

The DSGi employees' Facebook group, which contained derogatory remarks about customers, is an example of what can happen, and businesses need to lay down clear guidelines for usage.

They should also look at some examples of how social media can benefit their businesses before simply cracking down on employees who use it during working hours. Of course, there will be some who are merely wasting time, but there may be others who could help companies how to use social media more effectively.

Graham Charlton

Published 26 October, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (4)


David Fairhurst

I'd totally agree with your viewpoint - the report on the Telegraph website doesn't give even a partial picture of the benefits of utilising social media, infact it's a totally skewed viewpoint which borders on sensationalism at best.  The facts are that if you work in online marketing as I do, Twitter (and many other social media tools) are not only useful, they're a requirement to everyday productivity. 

Twitter has more or less replaced my RSS feeds, giving me almost 'real time' updates on important information from acknowledged experts in online marketing for my own knowledge development - this feeds into the development of the department I head here at Intelligent Retail, giving the company real benefits. 

Our utilisation of Twitter and other social / media channels such as YouTube forms the backbone of our link building efforts for our client's websites, allowing us to add quality content and promote our clients in an ethical and creative way. 

Twitter isn't costing businesses money... I'd venture to say that if you're not utilising Twitter for your business then you are missing a seriously big trick!  Every business on the planet should be encouraging their employees to use these technologies to be ambassadors for their companies, not complaining when they do so (usually as you said, in their lunchbreak time!).

over 8 years ago



I agree completely with both comments above. The article is bias and nothing more than sensationalism...the benefits aren't just for the businesses either - I have successfully used the service to complain about crap customer service and it was put right within hours instead of months.

If businesses bothered to get on board and understand the service and benefits Twitter and other social media offers and embrace it then they can protect and grow their brand. Businesses need to wake up that social media is here to stay and they better get their houses in order rather than making sensational claims. They need to be on social media to protect their brands if nothing else. Perhaps also they will treat their staff better too and not open themselves up for criticism of the shabby way they are treated.

They won't mention the cost of the benefits to businesses because there is no clear model to calculate such and quote....has anyone done a survey asking "How much extra unpaid time do you work for your company?" And then worked out how much businesses are ripping off their employees?

over 8 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham

Yep agreed - very one-sided review in the Guardian.

My viewpoint is somewhere in the middle but not in a sitting on the fence sort of way. Saying Twitter costs the UK economy £Xbn is meaningless data - how is that qualified as you point out? I think that Twitter benefits the economy in many ways:

It improves knowledge sharing

It moves content and information quickly

It can reduce communication costs between geographically separated locations

It can reduce the burden of calls/emails (internal and external)

The list goes on.

However, there is a negative side, one I know from experience. Some people mis-use tools like Twitter and waste time at work, even taking the lunch break data into consideration. I am not surprised that some people in the UK cost business money in lost hours by twittering away with no clear commercial benefit/guidelines.

However, one swallow does not a summer make - as with email usage, it is a minority who take advantage and spend unproductive time. I think overall social media can be a force for good for the economy and produce cost efficiencies if, as Steve alludes to, companies embrace it and encourage their employees to use it in a structured way.



over 8 years ago



What about the amount of information, tips and best practice that employees are learning from these sites? Has anyone ever costed that up?

over 8 years ago

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