There are many pros for social media. You can use social media to augment traditional public relations and communications strategies. You can build a profile and a brand and reach a wider audience. You are more engaging and can communicate directly with customers and the public. Your employees can provide value well beyond the 9 to 5 work hours. Social media has become necessary to fill the void as the media/newspapers have closed down or cut reporting staff recently. You can supplement existing partnership capabilities with tools such as podcasts, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to accelerate the sharing of knowledge, increase teamwork and enhance communication between co-workers.
Now for the cons. In early 2009, through weak passwords, hackers gained access to high-profile accounts such as Fox News network and Barack Obama causing online identity issues. If you are storing access to clients’ websites, passwords or any personal information on a laptop or mobile device; this information can be misused if your device is stolen. Also, stolen devices can allow unauthorized people to get access to your social media profiles. From a legal aspect, user behavior can allow a company to lose close control of sensitive information and tarnish their public image. Closely linked accounts (when a post is immediately syndicated to other social media accounts) are especially dangerous because the speed and ease of posting plus the replication and distribution of data makes it impossible to take something back once you’ve posted it.
As a result of the cons, a number of useful tools, applications and policies have formed to help us manage the security risks of social media networking while still allowing employees to invest themselves in it. For the small businesses just starting to be aware of the ramifications of unfettered social media access, there are tools that can help your IT department understand where data is stored, how it is handled and who has access. Companies must create a corporate social media strategy that includes policies, standards and guidelines. Use automated password reset programs. Use log compilation to stay on top of possible breaches (compiling syslog output).
A secure portal approach like the U.S. Army’s allows companies to keep all data safe and also enables the Army to block sensitive information, such as classified information or GPS coordinates, from being circulated. Make sure all laptops and/or mobile devices have passwords, encryption and tracking software in case they are stolen. Look for products such as McAfee Network Data Loss Prevention and McAfee Host Data Loss Prevention. (Please note: I have not used these products and am not offering a personal endorsement – these are just the type of products that you will want to look for).
What is not a suitable reaction is to implement URL filtering to block access to websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Instead protect your data by educating your employees and users. Historic data patterns give us the ability to prevent future data losses, use these patterns to implement effective user education programs. Trying to block access to these websites is just going to cause employees to find ways to go around your filters, thereby increasing the load on your IT department.
Social media is here to stay and there are ways to deal with the risks involved. Education is a priority; don’t shut something down just because you don’t understand it. Educate yourself, your company and your employees and put the power of social media behind you. Use it to your advantage.
1. Effects of corporate social media on network security
2. How to maintain security without increasing the operational load on IT staff
3. Social Media and The Military
4. Public Relations Pros Using Social Media To Spread Message
Kandi Humpf’s professional career may best be described as diverse. As a customer service representative, secretary, copy writer, operations manager, corporate client advocate, website developer, and technologist she has developed a rare skill set that allows her to help businesses understand and use the Internet to their advantage. Today, Kandi works through her corporation, Tork Marketing, which offers a variety of services to both small and large businesses and organizations. These include: Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click Management (PPC), Social Media Consulting and Development, Web Analytics Analysis, New & Existing Website Design and Development.
In addition, Kandi is writing articles for Search Engine Journal and is well on her way to becoming an industry leader in Search Engine Optimization and Marketing. While some people don’t practice what they preach, Kandi is an avid blogger and participates in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, Digg, Squidoo, and many more. In her spare time she reads, plays time management games and works on her personal website, K Squared.