Social Media, aka the ‘Wild Wild West of IT’

Tina Petroski
Posted By Tina Petroski
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Additional credit: Sharon Frazier.   — It can be said that social media today is the ‘Wild Wild West of IT.’  This frontier encompasses not only promotional and advertising wilderness for businesses and their owners but also operational risk, from employee use along both productivity and technology impact fronts.  There are camps for both sides of employee use.  Employees are representatives of the business and can harness genuine connections with customers or prospects, even though these connections are not always positive.  And on the other side of the coin, the productivity drain may not offset the value of the employee presence.  In both cases, however, viruses and other malware can inadvertently be introduced to the employee’s computer or company network through employees visiting these websites potentially causing expensive downtime and data loss for the business.

With careful planning and policy guidelines, a company may be able to leverage social media to successfully promote its business and still control the risks found inherently in social website access. Specific strategies, explanations and principles are invaluable to institute the culture shift required to control the risk.  The first step is to add a policy to the employee handbook detailing acceptable use.  Openness about concerns of loss of productivity, overburdening of network resources and potential data loss is essential.  The policy should explain not only the risks, but also how behavior on these sites is a direct reflection of the business and can potentially impact a company’s reputation.

Regarding technology impact, you can institute security measures to reduce the social media footprint on your infrastructure.  Firewalls and Antivirus software are two basic ways to increase security.  For example, you may choose to control or limit access to social websites during peak work hours through firewall configuration.  Or choose to limit access to certain sites based on site content.  Or limit the amount of bandwidth one computer or employee is authorized to use.  Additionally, some firewalls or software can provide more detailed reporting on web activity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to give you greater visibility.  Many times, employee knowledge of policy and monitoring are a sufficient deterrent to extraneous web activity.  Antivirus software (corporate editions) should also be installed on workstations, laptops and servers to protect the network against viruses or malware sometimes found embedded in social media sites.

Social media is currently a playground for marketing professionals.  How many fans your company has on Facebook or how many followers your CEO has on Twitter may indicate the popularity of your business.  Social media can be used for coordinating specific demographic advertising, driving more traffic to the actual business website.  The success of integrating social media into your marketing or promotional portfolio depends on the genuineness of your presence and interactions.  Due to the anonymity of the web experience, many of the users of these sites are not shy about giving you instant feedback about their experiences dealing with your company.  Acknowledging both positive and negative feedback demands finesse and a deliberate, open business strategy embraced by all employees engaged in the social media space.

bytes of knowledge has the experience and the know-how to help you explore and navigate the social media landscape.  From the marketing or promotional aspects to technology operations, we can be your Lewis and Clark (or whomever was a wild, wild west leader!).

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