Social Obligations14 Sep, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
In August, visitors to the AutoCAD Exchange web site encountered a message from Autodesk in place of the technical support resources they had come to rely on over the past three-and-a-half years:
Thank you for visiting AutoCAD Exchange. In an effort to consolidate our online AutoCAD community efforts to more popular networks, we will be migrating AutoCAD Exchange content and activities to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
This may be an unwelcome change for those who eschew these sites, but for Autodesk, the move is a logical one. According to a 2011 study conducted by Pew Research, social media sites are accessed by 89% of adults who use the Internet, with 69% stating that they use at least one social media site on an average day. In the tech-savvy CAD community, those numbers are likely even higher. The @AutoCAD feed on Twitter isn't a popular forum for tech support — yet — but it has nearly 15,000 followers who view product pitches, updates, and the like. The AutoCAD page on Facebook has more than 1.2 million followers, who can access tips, product news, and other practical (or simply interesting) updates. And Autodesk reported late last year that YouTube is the resource of choice for those seeking AutoCAD help — even more popular than the F1 key.
Given those numbers, not to mention all the marketing perks of a strong social media presence, Autodesk's decision to close AutoCAD Exchange is certainly understandable.
However — and this isn't really news — social media has its pitfalls, especially when you're using it for work-related purposes. For one, it is fraught with distractions. (How about a quick FarmVille fix or just one more video blooper before you view that CAD tip?) In addition, finding specific information can be more difficult and time-consuming than it is on the Internet in general, especially if the information provider has more than one social media outlet. Perhaps most significant, many organizations block employee access to these sites from company computers. Some find this a serious obstacle; others simply get access via a smartphone or home computer.
And a lot of users believe CAD use and social media simply don't belong together. Robert Green, a Cadalyst contributing editor and author of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, is one. As this issue of Cadalyst magazine went to press, Green was fielding feedback on his latest article, "Does Social Media Belong in CAD Applications?" He believes that social media sites can be a useful source of CAD information, if used wisely. As a CAD manager, however, he finds that users given unlimited social media access typically waste more time on nonwork-related activities than they save by having access to work-related tips and advice. Readers immediately responded to Green's stance with comments such as, "This is the first rational article concerning social media I have read," and, "You hit the nail right on the head."
Which path to take? At Cadalyst, we let you decide. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn with the latest CAD updates, hot topics, tips, and humor. On our own web site as well as in our e-newsletters and magazine, we deliver — as always — exclusive articles, product reviews, CAD tips and tutorials, and other great resources to help you get your job done.
I don't think there's one answer that's right for everyone. Managers must determine whether the benefits of social media access outweigh the drawbacks for their organizations. As for you CAD users, well, it's your duty to minimize personal activities when you're on company time, right? That's a recipe for success that's worth sharing.
About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's Tips & Tricks Tuesdays free e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is available. All exclusively from Cadalyst!