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There was a time, not so long ago, when social media was viewed as a productivity killer. Companies banned their employees from visiting the likes of Facebook and Twitter, fearing that they would spend hours on these social media sites instead of working.
But that attitude is rapidly changing. More companies are starting to see the value in giving their staff access to social networks.
In fact, tech research company Gartner reckons that only 30% of large organisations will block employee access to social media sites by 2014, compared with 50% in 2010.
Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner reckons at least part of the reason for this is because it’s becoming pointless to do so.
“Employees can circumvent blocks by using personal devices such as smartphones,” he said.
The biggest change, however, comes from the fact that more businesses are realising how valuable social media is for the way they are perceived in the public.
There is opportunity, however, for companies to use social media to learn more about their employees.
Gartner reckons it enables a more “complete view” of identity, one that extends beyond the bounds of organisations.
But it’s a little more complex than this: Social media is both a threat and an opportunity. It can expose organisations and users to a wide variety of security threats, but companies can also use this identity data to improve the way they function.
Gartner claims that the way employees use social media is affecting companies in three significant ways:
Personal trust misaligned with corporate trust: Anyone using a social platform has to make judgement calls on how much they trust both the platform and the other people on it. These judgement calls may not always align with the company’s own understandings of the risk involved. As a result, employees may say and do things on social media platforms that violate corporate policy or are otherwise counter to corporate expectations.
Public content supports identity intelligence: The collection of identity data by public social media on a massive scale enables improvements in the production of identity intelligence. This pushes companies to discover the user profiles accessed by staff and to maintain capabilities for accessing external services in order to harvest identity data.
Individual identities can be verified over social media: Social media provides a mechanism for verifying the identity of employees, job candidates and customers. Companies can also use social media to verify that people are who they say they are.
“Organisations should not ignore social media and social identity,” said Walls. “We recommend that organisations ascertain how they currently use internal and external social media in both official and unofficial ways…”
They should assess the “identity needs”, opportunities and risks of social media, he said.