Social Media Policy is a hot topic for most businesses. The larger the enterprise the greater the impact on the IT infrastructure. Bandwidth bottlenecks can occur quickly with employees all viewing YouTube, Vimeo and Viddler videos simultaneously. Reports on the reduction in employee productivity at work will lead you to believe that social media is a waste of time and that there’s no reason to be in Facebook on business time. Security issues are also a concern with the proliferation of social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter that offer apps, chat and email functions. So what should a company do?
Begin a Dialogue with Your Employees
Don’t just lock everyone out of everything! This reactionary approach will make your firm look like a dinosaur to your team as well as your customers. I’ve seen this implemented at large publicly held construction companies and I think they’ve shot themselves in the foot by locking out everyone with URL filtering. Determine which employees and social media applications can contribute to your company brand, market reach and customer relationships. Ask your marketing, communications and sales people including anyone involved with customer relationship management or customer support for their input. Check out your competitor’s website to see what social media applications and tools they are using. Often you’ll see a few icons listed somewhere on their site, an invitation to connect in the sidebar of a blog or perhaps an RSS feed of their social activity.
Establish a Social Media Policy
Start with defining what is acceptable and unacceptable when using social media sites as you do for email and cell phone usage. Yes, your Legal and Information technology teams will probably influence (scare) you enough that risk tolerance decisions will need to be made. My favorite book for addressing social media policy is The e-Policy Handbook by Nancy Flynn. You may have already decided that “we only allow LinkedIn”, period. Think again. The most popular Business to Business (B2B) network by far in the United States is LinkedIn and they’ve just added the ability to display Twitter feeds and blog posts on the Company Profile. Since blog posts often have videos embedded in articles, you may have just policed yourself into not being able to view your own marketing materials.
Get the IT Department on Board
With budget cuts across the board, IT is trying to do everything without spending money and often takes the “lock down” approach as the only thing they can do with the tools they currently have. Perhaps you should consider budgeting for new equipment, particularly firewalls that address social media. It’s not good enough anymore to rely on old technology. Traditional firewalls rely on port and protocol to classify traffic, allowing tech-savvy applications and users to bypass them with ease; hopping ports, using
SSL, sneaking across port 80, or using non-standard ports. It may be time to have your network traffic analyzed for applications, users and content, you need to know what bandwidth is used by social media and have a way to monitor and enforce your policies effectively. The Interface2010 Technology Symposium has this topic covered and while I attended the Scottsdale, AZ event last week, you can still catch them in a few other US cities this year.
We’re in the process of scheduling a webinar to help educate business owners and their IT departments on social media policy, monitoring and network security. If you’d like to receive a webinar invitation, be interested in a network audit or have questions, please ask us by posting a comment. Please share this with your business partners, IT friends, and customers.