First of all, let’s look at each of the “Big Three” social media sites and discuss whether or not it makes sense for corporations to block them. And I will conclude with the question of this blog post: why do corporate IT departments continue to block LinkedIn?
But before I even begin talking about each site, I wanted to remind everyone that social networking sites aren’t just for socializing: social media is also where people are increasingly going to look for information these days. While one can debate that people are looking for more information on Facebook than Google despite the amount of time spent on Facebook has far surpassed that of Google, can anyone argue against the fact that Twitter has now become a real-time search engine superior to Google?
So let’s start with Twitter. Why should IT NOT block Twitter? Let’s look at the ways corporations use Twitter now: brand management, customer support, business development, marketing…blocking access to Twitter can stifle your company’s growth and innovation. And if your company can’t monitor Twitter, who will monitor the conversations that are being had for them?
I would agree that there is more socializing going on on Facebook than on other sites. However, many businesses have discovered that there is business to be found on Facebook, and now we see growth both in the number of corporate fan pages (sorry I couldn’t find the stats on this) as well as the fact that more than 10 million users join Facebook fan pages each day. As with Twitter, if IT will not allow their employees to monitor these conversations, things could get out of control and adversely affect that company.
LinkedIn is fundamentally different from Twitter and Facebook in that it is a site for professionals (LinkedIn People) and businesses (LinkedIn Companies) rather than for “socializing”. I like to refer to LinkedIn as the default yellow pages that professionals and businesses MUST be on in order to be found. Why would IT departments block access then? The only feasible reason I have heard is that there is a fear that their employees will spend time on LinkedIn looking for a job. And anyone who has been on LinkedIn realizes that this is a poor excuse. Before LinkedIn, recruiters were still able to cold-call and reach you at your office. With the advent of the Social Web it is getting easier and easier to find people just because of the plethora of profile and other information out there. Limiting usage of LinkedIn is like preventing your employees from attending industry exhibitions or going to professional seminars. In my eyes, LinkedIn is the same thing, one big room of 50 million people that allow participants to develop business, find partners, recruit talent, join professional communities, and find answers to business problems. Why would IT want to stifle these fundamental vital aspects of business?
Some people will read this and just say, “Well, why don’t we just restrict access to certain departments instead?” This approach sounds reasonable at first, but with the growth of the social web, are there any parts of an organization that won’t be affected by social media in the near future? I think not. So restriction by IT is not the issue: a crisp social media policy on how employees can use the social web responsibly and enforcement of it is where companies should be trying to control things is the solution. It is no different than usage of the Internet in general: Companies have much more to lose by restricting access than to gain.
Would love to hear your comments on this. What has your experience been?