Blocking Social Networks is a Foolish Corporate Practice

Nice try, but you wont be updating your Facebook status today, pal.

"Nice try, but you won't be updating your Facebook status today, pal."

It isn’t a surprising reaction. Under the guise of security and productivity, many companies are locking down access to the Web with a focus on social networking sites.  According to web security company, ScanSafe, corporate customers have increased blocking of social networks like Facebook and Twitter by 20 percent in the last six months.  ScanSafe said in a press release:

“An analysis of more than a billion Web requests processed by the company each month confirms a 20% increase in the number of customers blocking social networking sites in the last six months. Currently, 76% of companies are choosing to block social networking and it is now a more popular category to block than online shopping (52%), weapons (75%), alcohol (64%), sports (51%) and Webmail (58%).”

This news, of course, is magic to ScanSafe’s ears, but should be alarming for everyone else.  The idea that social networks have more malware than regular web sites is a red herring.  So is the idea of productivity loss (especially since the productivity of U.S. workers has never been higher).

This has more to do with fear – and misunderstanding – than it does with security or productivity.  What companies fail to realize is that many people use social networks to do their jobs.  These sites increase productivity.  They are communication channels – and powerful ones.  Users can get answers to their questions quickly and find and share crucial information with co-workers, partners and customers.  Social networks are an effective way to track trends and breaking news – as well as an early warning system for any corporate crises.

Blocking social networks at this point is akin to blocking telephone usage in the 1950s.

Rather than locking down – corporations should be opening up.  A better practice is setting up guidelines and best practices for using social networks.  There are more than 300 million people using Facebook.  Twitter has become the telegraph system of the Web – the primary source for breaking news.  LinkedIn is a valuable tool for recruiters and networking (from finding customers to discovering new partners).  Why would any corporation block these valuable tools?  Forward thinking companies, of course, already know all this.

What companies need to realize is that there are some risks using social networks – but far greater benefits.  Social media is the evolution of Web.  There’s no turning back.  Engaging, conversing and communicating via the Internet is how communications will happen in the 21st century.  People turn to the web first for answers.  The Web is the starting place for the majority of people when they want to buy a car or a computer or even back-end accounting software.  It’s where people go to get answers to their questions.

Companies that fight this, by cutting off their employees, risk falling behind or becoming obsolete.  Companies should ask themselves one question.  Are your customers using the Social Web (Google, Facebook, blogs, etc.)?

If so then why aren’t you?

Posted via email from HighTalk on Posterous

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2 Responses to “Blocking Social Networks is a Foolish Corporate Practice”

  1. I’m a consultant working with Palo Alto Networks; they have an excellent whitepaper on the subject of blocking social networking apps that you may have to worry about, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?” here: It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.) Let me know what you think.
    There is a very cutting edge webinar coming up that you can register for now. It delves into social media and the role it will play in the future of the business world

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