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Posted by John Keller

All of us conducting business on E-networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and the others are running into a problem: a growing number of companies and other organizations are coming up with policies that ban the use of so-called "social networking" while at work. While it's difficult to characterize the depth of this mistake, we have ourselves at least partially to blame.

Why us? Because we use the poisonous term "social networking," which to the uninitiated means socializing, not working. We've all seen the cute stories in the press about Twitter, Facebook, etc., and with that kind of media play, who could blame many in the business community who perceive activity on these sites as play time, not work time?

Well, it's time to put a stop to this, and the first thing we can do is quit using the term "social networking" when describing the use of E-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for business. Start using a term that means business, like E-networking, business networking, or even B-netting. Personally, I use E-networking to describe how I push out editorial content and commentary related to Military & Aerospace Electronics on Twitter and Facebook. I won't use that other term that contains the "s-word."

I wish I had started doing this earlier, because there are distressing trends on the horizon. Our own internal audience-development research here at Military & Aerospace Electronics indicates that companies we serve with information every day have policies in place, or are contemplating policies, to prevent their employees from using E-networking tools while at the office.

I also run into stories like this one in the online edition of The Daily Mirror newspaper in London, headlined "Twitter and Facebook cost firms millions as employees waste time (," and this survey of 1,400 chief information officers that indicates 54 percent of companies block the use of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace at work (

This is all based on the false assumption that time spent on E-networking is wasted time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Companies might be able to fight E-networking for a while, but doing so is a lot like the last dinosaurs eating the first mammals. You might prevail today, but time is not on your side.

I understand that it can be exhausting conducting business today in a world that changes not just daily, but hourly. E-networking is a profoundly disruptive technology; it's upsetting, frustrating, and bewildering, but it also will take us to the next step in electronic communications. We don't have much say in the matter; this is the way it's going whether we embrace E-networking or not. I think the experts are right who predict that conventional e-mail will be obsolete within the next decade, replaced by E-networking technology and whatever it leads to.

If we're going to keep pace, then the time to get on board with E-networking in the workplace is now -- not tomorrow. Our business allies and competitors are amassing large followings of important contacts in E-networking. These lists of E-networking contacts are every bit as important as our customer e-mail and subscriber lists. As we gather a critical mass of important business contacts as followers, friends, fans, whatever, we can control our business communications like never before.

This has tremendous implications for publishing, public relations, retail, and all kinds of business-to-business ventures; any business that must communicate with its customers to succeed will rely on E-networking technology, if not now, then eventually. If business fails to get on board now, their learning curve will be very steep once they finally realize what they have to do. Companies that are holding back on E-networking must understand that their competitors are not ...

... which leads me back to this notion of banning E-networking in the workplace. It's kind of like banning the telephone because of its potential for abuse. Just like a telephone, E-networking is a critical business tool today, and will grow even more so in the future.

E-networking represents a fast-moving stream of often-crucial business information that is available to whomever dips into it. It just doesn't make any sense to keep this information source away from employees who potentially could make the best use of it. You can bet your competitors aren't, and your customers are going to notice.

If you're tentative about E-networking, come on in; the water's fine.

John Keller is chief editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics, a PennWell publishing franchise consisting of an active Website, e-newsletters, print magazine, and trade shows, which is based in Nashua, N.H. Contact Military & Aerospace Electronics online at, on Twitter at @jkeller1959 and #milaero, and on Facebook at If you're hopeless, you could even e-mail John Keller at

A special thanks to Chris Burke, president of BtB Marketing Communications, who helped me brainstorm for this piece. Chris tweets on Twitter at @CBurkeBtB.

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Blogger Ludozone said...
I could not agree with you more. It is strange that our A&D industry is so timid about using E-networking ( when the US Government (supposedly bureaucratic and slow to change) has fully embraced it. E-networking is the way of the future and the A&D companies that realize this early and encourage their employees to take part will gain the most.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 4:04:00 PM EDT  

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.