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Commentary

Report Spells Out Benefits, Drawbacks Of Social Media

Osterman Research has released a white paper about social media -- an overview of its benefits and some suggestions on how to avoid its pitfalls.
Osterman Research has released a white paper about social media -- an overview of its benefits and some suggestions on how to avoid its pitfalls.First, the paper presents some statistics that help put social networking in perspective: As of early June, Twitter had 190 million users; Facebook had 519 million; and LinkedIn had 65 million. That's a lot of eyeballs, and, as we all know by now, these websites are not just about friends seeking friends anymore. The number of business users is on the rise, and the Osterman paper lists some of the ways that social networking tools can be used for business purposes, including these:

-generating new business -making product announcements -distributing company information -managing a brand -monitoring consumer sentiment

But using social media involves risks, and these are too great for any company to ignore.

1) Unauthorized sharing of sensitive or confidential information 2) Inappropriate comments made by employees 3) Identity management: "An organization that cannot prove the identity of individuals purporting to be representatives of their company…faces significant risks from a compliance perspective." 4) Malware infiltration: With social networking sites, malware can enter corporate networks in ways it couldn't via e-mail or the web. 5) Loss of business records: There's often information in posts that should be retained. Since organizations can't rely on social media sites to retain this info, they need to find ways to mine this data themselves.

Ultimately, Osterman Research recommends a four-step plan for managing social networking within an organization:

1) Understand how and why social networking is used. "IT should conduct a thorough audit of how social networking is used, which tools are used, and why. The audit should include a forward-looking focus on how these tools might be used in the future." 2) Understand the risks of inadequate management. 3) Implement policies focused on appropriate use of social networking. The goal here is to "implement policies that will attempt to strike the appropriate balance between employee freedom to communicate via social networking tools, the business benefits that will come from the use of these tools, compliance with industry regulations, and advice from legal counsel." 4) Deploy the right technologies. By this, Osterman refers to technologies that will monitor posts, control the use of unauthorized tools, archive and log content, and block threats.