Social networking in business: plan less for less pain

Instant benefits at low costs, but take note of the increased scope

Annalie Killian

Annalie Killian

Not so fast, that’s my company data

An increasing headache for businesses living in the closed-shop IT world is the amount of potential there is for social networking employees to leak sensitive data to a third-party or publicise potentially damaging information about people that otherwise wouldn’t have traveled beyond the water cooler.

Deloitte’s Williams summed up the situation by saying “trying to get something back from the Internet is like trying to get pee out of a swimming pool”.

The explosion in third-party social networking tools in business has made it all to easy – whether deliberate or not – to cast information outside the firewall.

“Don't take videos of yourself having sex with another organism, particularly yourself!” Williams said.

“It goes down to organisational culture. If your organisation has a culture of back-stabbing then it will happen on social networks. Saying we should ban social networks is like saying we should ban phone calls and e-mail.”

And just because more of today’s employees have a public soap box “that doesn't give you a licence to hang sh*t on someone”.

“We say don't diss each other and we have a culture of openness so it goes with the turf,” Williams said. “It’s the same with editing wikis and people leaving rotting food in the fridge, there is a certain level of self-regulation.”

Employee behavioural control in the Web 2.0 age comes with the standard terms and conditions for all IT system use at Deloitte.

“Don't make them 30 pages long and have a ‘be smart, use judgment’ mantra.”

At AMP similar rules apply.

“We are trying hard to have a small and simple social media policy as possible – be smart,” Killian said, adding the company still doesn't have a “great” social media policy and is still talking about it.

“We have a live and let live policy unless a complaint is raised. We also have a lot of introverts in the organisation. It's different strokes for different folks and it's not a massive problem.”

Killian said a lot of companies want to see social networking fail in order to “sell you some security software or something”.

“When you sign up for your own blog there is a three-line guideline statement saying ‘don't put up anything offensive’ and we then let the community self-regulate,” she said. “Most people are sensible”.

We live in an age where employers will “Google you before they hire you” so don't release anything to the Internet you don't want others to see, according to Killian.

“Companies tend to focus on boundaries and not what flourishes inside them,” she said.

Forrester’s Noble agrees with Williams in that if people use social networks to badmouth others the organization itself has a problem and taking away that avenue won’t fix it.

Noble said as personal brands become something we all have and showcase things we are proud of and things we are not so proud of, organisations will be more forgiving of this increasing “openness”.

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