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Why using social media is like sex

“Social [media] is like sex — fun to read about, fun to look at, but to really understand it, you have to do it.”

How’s that for an attention getter? That’s how Nigel Fenwick, principal analyst at Forrester Research, ended his session on social media for the CIO at last week’s Forrester IT Forum, with a quote from Forrester CEO George Colony.

But too many CIOs and decision makers are social media virgins: When Fenwick polled the audience of CIOs, few session attendees raised their hands to indicate they actively tweet or blog. Even fewer had a social media policy in place at their organizations.

That inexperience and ignorance could prevent companies from taking advantage of a powerful business tool.

Communicating across your organization and industry, scoping out the competitive landscape and gaining valuable insight into the needs and expectations of your customers can put you in touch on a broader scale. Part of being an effective worker is being social, which relies on having the means to communicate with other people on your team, in your organization or in your industry. However, these business benefits may not be clear if you’re unclear on what social media really is.

Benefits aside, trying to block social media is a Quixotic quest. Fenwick said that CIOs decide to ban social sites at work and expect that to take care of the problem. “But think of how many of your employees have smartphones,” he said. “They are just going to go around you and connect from there.”

At the end of the day, social media is a tool, and employees need guidance on how to use it properly. Consider the big picture when making a social media decision and aim for policies that are nuanced — with clear expectations and proper online etiquette.

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Social media is gaining so much momentum that so it’s becoming a if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em scenario. Not to mention there are more benefits from using social networking sites showing every day. Employees are going to find a way around the policy and CIOs or IT departments should try to find a happy medium where some social media apps will be blocked and some left accessible. Palo Alto Networks created a new software that any IT department would be interested in. Here’s a whitepaper they created: