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Social Media Is Having a Major Impact on Businesses

Companies are shifting to digital platforms and media to interact and collaborate with customers and employees

Newswise — As businesses become increasingly global and competitive, social media is playing a major role because of its ability to bridge distances and enable the development of relationships, a key component for any business.

”It is totally reshaping the way organizations communicate,” says Andrea Goldberg, the president and founder of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC in Bedford, NY, and an industrial and organizational psychologist with a background in marketing, communications and human resources.

“Increased openness and collaboration are greatly impacting the workplace and leading to the creation of internal and external networks and communities. Driving much of this is the relatively new phenomenon of social media, which is also contributing to organizational effectiveness, branding and customer support,” Goldberg said.

A 2010 Burson Marsteller study of Fortune 100 companies found that 66 percent used Twitter; 54 percent had a Facebook page and half managed a corporate YouTube channel. And, according to another survey, 73 percent of businesses plan to increase their social media presence, while 90 percent of marketers have adopted social media as a valuable tool.

Savvy companies, both large and small, have recognized the value social media can bring to their organizations; something that employees and customers are expecting more and more.

This is due in large part to the increased use of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn by people of all ages as well as the numbers of technically oriented people entering the workforce who have grown up with social media. For these people, social media is an integral part of their lives and they expect it to be part of their work environment as well.

“A new business environment is emerging as many employees have the ability and the desire to use these tools to interact with their colleagues, managers and customers and to accomplish work differently than by traditional methods,” said Goldberg.

On the customer or external side this has been demonstrated by the growth of sites such as Yelp and Angie’s list that allow customers to evaluate vendors. Twitter is being used to respond to customer concerns and Facebook enables customers to become fans.

On the internal side, Goldberg sees organizations transforming and shifting strategies because of the way social media is impacting recruiting and selection, communications, rewards and incentives, defining job roles and leadership and training and development.

The fact is that social media has already become a common part of the workplace, so companies need to accommodate the new realities, said Goldberg.

She said some of the positive outcomes stemming from these realities include new marketing and public relations channels; better customer acquisition, service and loyalty; new approaches for branding and communications; collaborative innovations for product development; opportunities for thought leadership; recruitment of hard-to-find skilled candidates and increased employee engagement.

This trend does come with some risks. Employees posting unacceptable comments about colleagues and/or their company on Twitter and other social media outlets have occurred.

To mitigate misuse, companies need to develop policies governing use of social media that restricts certain content including personnel matters, contract negotiations and corporate policies.

Forward thinking companies are leveraging employees’ social media skills and training them to become brand stewards to help promote loyalty and support for the organization. Positive postings on employees’ social networks can boost an organization’s employment brand. “They can help position the company as an employer of choice,” said Goldberg.

She also pointed out that organizations actively involved in social media often have employees more engaged with their companies. “The value is they get people talking and interacting across boundaries, borders and silos,” she said.

Benefits include greater transparency, trust, responsibility, innovation and improved customer service, she added.

But some things have to be in place before social media use can be effective, says Goldberg. Realistic expectations and guidelines must be established and clearly communicated to all employees while allowing opportunity for dialog and commentary. Also, employees should be aware of not only the benefits but also the limitations of social media. “Employees need to be careful how they use company information on social media networks,” she said.

Another way to enhance satisfaction is to encourage employees to offer ideas and suggestions and incorporate them into both company programs and products. “They need to know management is listening to them and they are important to the company’s success. And that helps build trust,” she said.

However, despite the proven benefits not all organizations have jumped on the social media bandwagon. Others are slow to see its value.

Goldberg pointed to Accenture as an organization that had made social media part of its culture. The global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company provides avenues for employees to connect through an internal Twitter Network, a company blog and a YouTube site.

Kevin Kramer, Accenture’s director of human capital, said “We are very wired. People here are excited about social media and have been using it for years. We are hooked on our mobile devices.”

Goldberg said that social media is not just the domain of young people. “The fastest growing segment of social media users is over 40. In part, that’s because so many young people are active users and there is not much room to grow. Nevertheless, older people are learning just how effective a tool social media can be and that’s why they are the fastest growing group.”

Released: 12/13/2011

Source: Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/social-media-is-having-a-major-impact-on-businesses

New Findings….Obesity Limits Effectiveness of Flu Vaccines

Newswise — People carrying extra pounds may need extra protection from influenza.

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that obesity may make annual flu shots less effective.

The findings, published online Oct. 25, 2011, in he International Journal of Obesity, provide evidence explaining a phenomenon that was noticed for the first time during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak: that obesity is associated with an impaired immune response to the influenza vaccination in humans.

“These results suggest that overweight and obese people would be more likely than healthy weight people to experience flu illness following exposure to the flu virus,” said Melinda Beck, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and senior author of the study.

“Previous studies have indicated the possibility that obesity might impair the human body’s ability to fight flu viruses. These new findings seem to give us a reason why obese people were more susceptible to influenza illness during the H1N1 pandemic compared to healthy weight people.”

The study reports for the first time that influenza vaccine antibody levels decline significantly in obese people compared to healthy weight individuals. What’s more, responses of CD8+ T cells (a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the body’s immune system) are defective in heavier people.

Researchers studied people at a UNC clinic who had been vaccinated in late 2009 with inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine, the common flu vaccine for that fall and winter season. Although obese, overweight and healthy weight individuals all developed antibodies to flu viruses within the first month after vaccination, the antibody levels in the blood declined more rapidly in obese and overweight individuals over time.

About 50 percent of obese participants had a four-fold decrease in antibody levels at 12 months compared to one month post vaccination. However, less than 25 percent of healthy weight participants had a four-fold decrease in antibody levels.

Also, when study participants’ blood samples were tested in the lab and exposed to a flu virus 12 months after vaccination, about 75 percent of healthy weight people’s CD8+ T cells still expressed interferon-γ, an infection-fighting protein. However, only about 25 percent of obese patients’ cells responded by producing the protein.

When vaccination fails to prevent flu infection, people must rely in part on their CD8+ T cells to limit the spread and severity of infection, said Patricia Sheridan, Ph.D., research assistant professor of nutrition and an author on the paper.

“If antibody titers are not maintained over time in the obese individuals and memory CD+ T cell function is impaired, they may be greater risk of becoming ill from influenza,” Sheridan said.

Heather Paich, a doctoral student in Beck’s lab, added: “The findings also suggest overweight and obese people are more likely to become sicker and have more complications. That’s because influenza-specific CD8+ T cells do not protect against infection, but instead act to limit the disease’s progression and severity of disease.”

In 2005, Beck and her colleagues reported that obesity in mice impaired the animals’ ability to fight influenza infections and increased the percent dying from influenza, compared to lean mice with the same infections. In 2010, her team showed that obesity seemed to limit the mice’s ability to develop immunity to influenza, suggesting vaccines may not be as effective in obese and overweight as in healthy weight humans. Also, the fatality rate was higher in obese mice – none of the lean mice died, but 25 percent of the obese mice died.

“This latest study shows that obese people may have a similar impaired response to influenza vaccines as our mouse models did to influenza virus,” Beck said. “We need to continue to study the effect of obesity on the ability to fight virus infections. Influenza is a serious public health threat, killing up to half a million people a year worldwide. As rates of obesity continue to rise, the number of deaths from the flu could rise too. We need to better understand this problem and to look for solutions.”

Along with Beck, Sheridan and Paich, other UNC nutrition department study authors were Erik A. Karlsson, now a postdoctoral research associate, at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Aileen B. Sammon and Lara Holland, who were undergraduates at the time. Other authors were Michael G. Hudgens, Ph.D., research associate professor of biostatistics in the public health school; and Jean Handy, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology, Samuel Weir, M.D., clinical associate professor of family medicine, and Terry L. Noah, M.D., professor of pediatrics, all from the UNC School of Medicine.

For more information or a copy of the study, see: http://www.nature.com/ijo/index.html

Released: 10/20/2011

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/obesity-limits-effectiveness-of-flu-vaccines

Important New Book Discusses China’s Economic Strategy

Newswise — Everyone is talking about China.

In the news daily — on TV, online and in print — China’s arrival as a rapidly developing and industrializing global power is front and center.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) ranks as the world’s second largest economy after the United States. It has been the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with consistent growth rates of around 10 percent over the past 30 years. The nation is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods in the world.

Despite an economy that seems to be growing at a boundless rate, China’s rise as an economic powerhouse has been carefully managed by its Communist leaders, according to Roselyn Hsueh, assistant professor of political science and Asian studies at Temple.

“In the last 30 years, China has opened its doors to global integration and external investment,” said Hsueh. “Today’s China is governed by a new economic model that departs fundamentally from its East Asian neighbors and its own Communist past.”

“But behind the buzz of ‘China’s rise’ is a complex story of how the Chinese government has selectively used market liberalization followed by re-regulation in a way that enables the Communist leadership to promote domestic industries, enhance its technology base and retain power, including the power to control the flow of information,” she said.

Hsueh examines China’s distinctive integration into the international economy in her new book, China’s Regulatory State: A New Strategy for Globalization (Cornell University Press, 2011).

While visiting China in the summer of 2002, Hsueh confronted a paradox: On the one hand, the state’s hand could be seen in economic activities everywhere; yet simultaneously there existed genuinely capitalist practice and values. Foreign influence was ubiquitous — from neon displays of ING on skyscrapers in Shanghai to billboards selling Motorola handsets on provincial boulevards. Yet, she said, visits to municipalities and towns and villages revealed the government was still maintaining tight control over some sectors of the economy.

“Witnessing this apparent unevenness of liberal market capitalism got me asking deeper questions about China’s politics and economy,” said Hsueh.

In her book, Hsueh demonstrates that China only appears to be a more liberal state. According to her model, the central government tightly regulates sectors with high strategic value, such as telecommunications, but will allow much looser regulation of nonstrategic subsectors, such as textiles.

“China has adopted a bifurcated economic strategy,” said Hsueh. “Even as it introduces competition, the state selectively asserts control over industry and market development at the sectoral level to achieve state goals.”

Released: 9/30/2011
Source:Temple University
Via Newswise
Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/china-s-bifurcated-economic-strategy

Have Brain Fatigue? A Bout of Exercise May be the Cure

Newswise — Bethesda, Md. (Sept. 19, 2011)—Researchers have long known that regular exercise increases the number of organelles called mitochondria in muscle cells. Since mitochondria are responsible for generating energy, this numerical boost is thought to underlie many of the positive physical effects of exercise, such as increased strength or endurance. Exercise also has a number of positive mental effects, such as relieving depression and improving memory. However, the mechanism behind these mental effects has been unclear. In a new study in mice, researchers at the University of South Carolina have discovered that regular exercise also increases mitochondrial numbers in brain cells, a potential cause for exercise’s beneficial mental effects.

Their article is entitled “Exercise Training Increases Mitochondrial Biogenesis in the Brain.” It appears in the Articles in PresS section of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

Methodology
The researchers assigned mice to either an exercise group, which ran on an inclined treadmill six days a week for an hour, or to a sedentary group, which was exposed to the same sounds and handling as the exercise group but remained in their cages during the exercise period. After eight weeks, researchers examined brain and muscle tissue from some of the mice in each group to test for signs of increases in mitochondria. Additionally, some of the mice from each group performed a “run to fatigue” test to assess their endurance after the eight-week period.

Results
Confirming previous studies, the results showed that mice in the exercise group had increased mitochondria in their muscle tissue compared to mice in the sedentary group. However, the researchers also found that the exercising mice also showed several positive markers of mitochondria increase in the brain, including a rise in the expression of genes for proxisome proliferator-activated receptor- coactivator 1-alpha, silent information regulator T1, and citrate synthase, all regulators for mitochondrial biogenesis; and mitochondrial DNA. These results correlate well with the animals’ increased fitness. Overall, mice in the exercise group increased their run to fatigue times from about 74 minutes to about 126 minutes. No change was seen for the sedentary mice.

Importance of the Findings
These findings suggest that exercise training increases the number of mitochondria in the brain much like it increases mitochondria in muscles. The study authors note that this increase in brain mitochondria may play a role in boosting exercise endurance by making the brain more resistant to fatigue, which can affect physical performance. They also suggest that this boost in brain mitochondria could have clinical implications for mental disorders, making exercise a potential treatment for psychiatric disorders, genetic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

“These findings could lead to the enhancement of athletic performance through reduced mental and physical fatigue, as well as to the expanded use of exercise as a therapeutic option to attenuate the negative effects of aging, and the treatment and/or prevention of neurological diseases,” the authors say.

Study Team
The study was conducted by Jennifer L. Steiner, E. Angela Murphy, Jamie L. McClellan, Martin D. Carmichael, and J. Mark Davis, all of the University of South Carolina.

Source: American Physiological Society

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/have-brain-fatigue-a-bout-of-exercise-may-be-the-cure

Career and Employment News: What Color is Your Resume? Go Green to Land a Job

Winston-Salem, N.C. – As corporate and nonprofit recruiters prepare to storm college campuses this fall, applicants need new ways to distinguish themselves in an increasingly challenging job market.

Viewing the world through the lens of sustainability and demonstrating practical experience with a “greener resume” can make a difference when applying for jobs, says Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Director of Sustainability at Wake Forest University.

A recent study found 93 percent of CEOs believe sustainability will be “important” or “very important” to the future success of their companies. DeLongpré Johnston offers three simple solutions for students wanting to bolster their green potential without greenwashing their resumes.

1. “Act like an ‘intrapreneuer.’ Seize opportunities for innovation and creativity – just like an entrepreneur – by incorporating sustainable values and practices into existing campus organizations and everyday life. Internships focused on sustainability are especially invaluable because they help students demonstrate to employers that they can think critically and solve problems.”

2. “Start a ‘green team.’ Demonstrate results-driven leadership and help others develop more socially and environmentally responsible behaviors by evaluating the current level of sustainable practices on campus and taking action for improvement. Even small initial actions such as making available reusable mugs rather than using disposable cups can inspire larger scale changes over time.”

3. “Look beyond job titles. Sustainability is a way of thinking, and opportunities are often embedded in functional areas such as marketing, research and development, and even accounting.”

Tracey Watson never imagined her campus sustainability internship would lead to working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its “Go Green, Get Healthy” initiative. The 2010 Wake Forest graduate says promoting her on-campus experience was invaluable in landing and enjoying her job, which combines her personal and professional interests in the environment and health communications.

“I am one of the few people on my team who doesn’t have a environmental science background, and in some ways that has helped me,” says Watson. “Don’t let your major discourage you from a career in sustainability – just follow your passion, be a self-starter and learn as you grow. There’s plenty of room for progress.”

Released: 9/8/2011
Source: Wake Forest University

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/view/580422

New Survey, Why Do Men Hate Going to the Doctor?

Newswise — MAYWOOD, Ill. – A national survey found that women were three times more likely to see a doctor on a regular basis than men. Even though men on average die younger than women and have higher mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, stroke and AIDS, trying to get a man to a doctor can be harder than pulling teeth. So, why do men hate it so?

“There could be as many answers to that question as male patients that I see, but more often than not it’s that it’s not a priority for them,” said Timothy Vavra, DO, Loyola University Health system physician and associate professor of internal medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “They’re not willing to make a lifestyle change so they think it’s a waste of time listening to a doctor tell them to change the way they eat, to start exercising and stop smoking if they’re not going to do it anyway.”

According to Vavra this thinking doesn’t add up. The longer a person puts off seeing a doctor the more likely they’ll have to see a doctor on a regular basis.

“Prevention isn’t 100 percent, but we can address issues and keep an eye out for warning signs,” said Vavra. “I have patients that if they would’ve seen me more regularly we could have made little changes that would have helped prevent them from having a medical crisis that resulted in a complete lifestyle change.”

He suggests men go to a physician and establish care when they are young and healthy so there is a base level. This allows the physician and patient to know when things are heading in the wrong direction. It’s not only a sound investment for your health, but financially as well.

“If you wait till you have a health crisis it’s no longer preventive care, it’s secondary care and that may include surgery and/or hospital stay. Instead of making a simple change in diet and lifestyle a person will have to make significant changes and often be on medications,” said Vavra.

Having to see specialists, paying for procedures and taking daily medications can really impact a person’s financial health. In addition, many health insurance companies offer financial incentives for staying on top of health conditions and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Other than having a health problem of their own, often what prompts men to health action is a health crisis in someone with whom they can relate.

“When Bill Clinton had his heart attack, my office schedule was suddenly filled with men who wanted to talk about heart health,” said Vavra. “When men see someone that resembles themselves having a health issue they often start paying attention.”

Everyone is busy and for many men the time going to a doctor can feel like a waste of a precious resource. Still, Vavra says going to the doctor is one of the best things a man can do for his family.

“A man may feel selfish or weak going to the doctor or caring for his health, but it makes a positive impact on the whole family. Kids look to their parents for examples of how to live. So lead by example. If you live a healthy life so will your kids,” said Vavra.

Here are a few screenings every man should get:
High blood pressure. Every man age 18 or older should have his blood pressure checked at least once a year.

Diabetes. Men with risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, being overweight or experiencing diabetic symptoms should be screened with a fasting blood test. This test measures the amount of a sugar called glucose in your blood. Normal is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter; 101 to 125 is pre diabetes and above 125 suggests diabetes.

Cholesterol. Men ages 20 to 35 who have cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes should be screened. After age 35, men should be screened once every five years if normal, or more often if levels are borderline.

Colorectal cancer. Men should be screened beginning at age 50. The gold standard is a colonoscopy. A doctor uses a slender, lighted tube to examine the entire colon. A colonoscopy can find and remove precancerous growths called polyps. If a colonoscopy is normal, it’s good for 10 years. Other screening exams include a yearly fecal occult blood test (which can find blood in the stool) or, every five years, a fecal blood test combined with an exam called a sigmoidoscopy, which examines the lower part of the colon.

Prostate cancer. Men ages 50 or older who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years should get annual PSA tests and digital rectal exams.
Released: 6/8/2011
Source: Loyola University Health System

Via NEWSWISE

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