Social network practices : an investigation into the perceptions of businesswomen
In the business environment, businesswomen experience various challenges that impede their growth within organisations. Therefore, the social networking phenomenon has become much more than interacting and learning more about people within a social environment. Businesswomen are developing and utilising their social networks to gain much-needed social support in order to establish balance amongst their diverse responsibilities, including work and childcare responsibilities. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the social network practices of" Gauteng businesswomen. In order to gain insight into these social network practices, qualitative research in the form of in-depth interviews was used. The most important findings of this research are discussed below. • Networking is a learnable skill that can be adapted to any situation. It involves interacting with people, sharing information and is based on relationships that are developed and maintained. • An individual's networking efforts are driven by a specific motivation (business and/or personal) and are therefore focused. Furthermore, businesswomen utilise networking as a marketing tool on a personal level and within their businesses. • Social networking takes place in informal environments and individuals can utilise their social networks to make new friends. Social networking is also a gathering place for people with similar interests. • Social networks consist of supportive people and people with similar values. Business " contacts can also be found in social environments. • Businesswomen, especially businesswomen with children, experience various challenges in their social networking efforts. • Businesswomen perceive social networking as a valuable tool and utilise their social networks in order to gain support. • Successful social networking behaviour includes integrity, respect, love of other people, hard work, reciprocity, clear networking goals, confidence, leveraging available networking mechanisms and avoiding poor networking behaviour such as being impolite, not honouring meetings, disrespecting and taking advantage of other people and negativity. This research contributes to literature in that it provides further background to the concept of social networking. It further provides insight into the needs and expectations of businesswomen regarding social networks. The research can also serve as a basis for social network development in organisations. Although the research had promising results, various limitations were noted. These are discussed below. • The participants found it difficult to fit the interviews into their busy schedules and they had limited time to participate in the interviews as a result of personal and professional obligations. It seemed that the interviews were not highly prioritised by the participants. • place of interviewing (a central coffee shop) was noisy at points, such as the waiter bringing the account, loud music playing at times and a noisy parking lot. This might have influenced the quality of the recordings. • Although a representative population was sought, the population consisted of mostly white women who had no children under the age of twelve. The sample also only included businesswomen in the Gauteng Province. This qualitative research could be used as the basis of a quantitative study. This includes using the identified findings and developing a measuring battery (questionnaire) to further investigate the social network practices of businesswomen.