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Healthy social media management curbs risks, adds business benefits

Social media management policies have two goals: To mitigate potential business risks and to promote business benefits via acceptable use. Learn how to find your social balance.

Social media use by the enterprise has come a long way over the last year -- more organizations are actually employing some social aspects, as opposed to just expressing interest. While increased use has provided some business benefits, it also has highlighted the need for organizations to brush up on their social media management policies and methods to avoid some serious security risks.

For example, CIOs need to be prepared for some changes as a new generation of social media addicts enters the workforce. A recent study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland found that students felt extreme anxiety when they were cut off from receiving information via BlackBerrys, laptops, iPods and so forth. Workers expecting up-to-the-minute information, and willing to seek it out through their personal networks, could shine a spotlight on acceptable use policies and how far behind the times an organization may have fallen.

It's time to balance the risks with healthy social media management to ensure that both end users and the organization reap the benefits. Check out some of the latest news on social media management, as well as specific use-cases:

Securing, not forbidding, corporate social media use: You've heard the horror stories of social business gone awry -- but who's talking before disaster strikes? It seems that while some organizations are actively pursuing security tools to patrol their social networks, they are staying tightlipped about the specifics. From the types of tools they use to how familiar they are with social media management techniques and security, many IT managers and CIOs are not willing to share their information.

There were numerous reasons for the silence: IT executives feeling they were too new to social media to speak knowledgeably about it, a variety of security concerns -- and the fact that many were simply blocking access.

But blocking and forbidding the use of social media tools could be a detriment to the business, according to Jonathan Penn, an analyst who covers security at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "We are finding that a lot of these policies are disallowing use of social media, even when there is a business need," he said.

Instead, organizations should find a way to balance security measures with business needs. Crafting a nuanced social media policy (such as the guidelines issued by the federal government) can be passed quickly and effectively. Monitoring where information ends up and how data is used can also help organizations enforce social media management policies. And remember, archiving is not enough: Social media blunders cannot be undone. It's important to create best practices and educate users on the risks.

Social media bright spots in customer relationship management (CRM): A social CRM investment may be worthwhile for some organizations seeking to improve customer interactions and provide on-the-fly support, as well as to carve out a valid space for the business across social networks. According to Allen Bonde, a social CRM consultant with Evoke CRM Partners in Franklin, Mass., it needs to be a two-way street, however. The social media channel will not work if an organization is not interested and committed to engaging the customer.

And remember, archiving is not enough: Social media blunders cannot be undone.

Some industries may not encourage social involvement or may require a different strategy, so it's important to understand your customers (and mission) before you dive into social CRM. And when you get there, there are a number of inexpensive social CRM software options, including Jive Software's Social Business Software, to help you manage your efforts.

Social technologies to bring business intelligence (BI) mainstream: BI is still working its way into the mainstream, but advancements in such areas as mobile BI applications, interactive visualization tools and data mashups, could help it along. Such Web 2.0 tools would get BI into the hands of multiple types of users -- not just business analysts.

And to motivate BI adoption? One CIO made the company's BI dashboard the gateway into all corporate data, encouraging an internal social network.

What's your social media solution? Email editor@searchcio-midmarket.

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