October 22, 2012 - 11:30 AM
I had an interesting discussion last week about social media and governance. The person's perspective was that his organization didn't have to worry about social media governance because his IT team blocks the more common services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. at the firewall. Let me lay out five reasons why this is not the right solution - or even an effective one.
1. The person mentioned that his IT team blocks the most common services. There are thousands of popular social media sites and millions more when you look at blog, white-label services like Ning, gaming sites, and other social sites not commonly considered as such. While Facebook is the single largest social media site, if the concern is for security and productivity Facebook may be the least of the organization's concerns.
2. Many users access social media sites indirectly using third-party services and clients. So blocking Facebook might not block updates to it from 4square, or Tripit, or any of those millions of other sites.
3. Just because a site is blocked from the worksite and during working hours doesn't mean users can't get to it. Most employees have computers and internet access at home. Every cafe and coffee shop has free wifi. And as more of your staff works flexible hours or works remotely, the notion of IT blocking access to anything becomes increasingly quaint.
4. This is exacerbated by the rise of the smart phone and tablet. You may still work 9-5 at your organization's place of business and therefore find yourself behind IT's firewall. But statistically you probably have a smart phone or tablet, and increasingly those devices are yours, not provided by your organization. And unless you work in a shadowy government organization and drop your phone in a lead-lined box every morning, there isn't anything IT can do technology-wise to block your accessing social media over your own data plan (3G/4G etc.).
5. The final reason, however, outweighs all of the other ones. Study after study has shown that organizations that leverage social media are more agile, more responsive, and better perceived by their constituents and customers and the marketplace. In other words, we had the same technology, security, and productivity concerns in the past about email, and internet access, and computers, and even telephones. Yet which of those tools are you willing to block at the boundaries of your organization? None of them because they are critical to getting the work done in your organization.
Social media isn't there yet, and some sites may never be mission-critical. But they are where the conversations about your products, your brand, your employees and management, and your organization are taking place. And if you simply put your head in the sand and ignore them, you cannot be surprised when you find that your competitors have passed you - or even lapped you.
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