Businesses Banning Social Networks? Not So Fast! - InformationWeek
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8/24/2009
10:06 AM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
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Businesses Banning Social Networks? Not So Fast!

Social networks such Facebook and Twitter are the new porn, at least according to one security firm that finds three quarters of businesses blocking social nets. But social nets' business potential is so large that by banning them businesses are essentially cutting off their noses to spite their Facebook.

Social networks such Facebook and Twitter are the new porn, at least according to one security firm that finds three quarters of businesses blocking social nets. But social nets' business potential is so large that by banning them businesses are essentially cutting off their noses to spite their Facebook.The ScanSafe survey found that 76 percent of employers are now blocking use of social networking sites at work, a 20 percent jump in that last half year alone.

On the surface, the prohibition is a straightforward response to a business problem: employees are spending too much time tweeting and friending and social networking, eating into productivity and possibly exposing the company to malware and other risks. So far so good, and it's a topic we've talked about before.

But we've also talked at length about the real business benefits of social networking sites when used for business purposes.

And there's the rub. By outright banning of social networks at business, companies do indeed solve the problem of employee distraction and loss of productivity as a result of social nets. But they're also denying themselves the chance to exploit the nets' business value.

The issue, it seems to me, is far more one of personnel management and company policy than "dangerous" technology. If you want to restrict employee use of social networks -- or Webmail or non-business surfing or whatever -- on company time and equipment, fine, and more than reasonable.

But do it with a formal policy, one that contains penalties for violations, and one that is strictly enforced. Tweets and friends should be restricted to business Facebook and Twitter accounts when using company equipment on company time.

To eliminate those legitimate and potentially profitable social networking uses along with the non-business uses is a mistake, and a case of the baby being tossed out with the bathwater.

Get a grip on what your employees are doing with their time on your time -- but don't lose hold of the still-emerging business possibilities embedded in targeted business use of social nets.

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