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Jul
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Social networking at work place ?Pros, cons and solutions

Social networking at work place ?Pros, cons and solutions

Introduction

The growth of social networking platforms has been phenomenal. Millions of people around the world with access to the Internet are members of one or more social networks. They have a permanent online presence where they create profiles, share photos, share their thoughts with friends and spend hours catching up with what their hundreds of friends are doing with their lives.

 

Give most people access to the Internet and they will spend the next hour checking their email, their Facebook profile, their MySpace Web page, updating their Twitter account and their LinkedIn account. And it doesn’t happen only once a day. The time spent using social networking applications is one reason why many businesses are reluctant to allow employees to use sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn during office hours. Add the time spent on non work related browsing, and employers have a point. At the same time, however, businesses are starting to appreciate that social networking has its advantages, and there are many companies that have adopted social networking as another vehicle to gain a better presence online and a wider audience.

 

Research Findings

Social Networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Bebo have permeated society and the workplace over recent years. In April 2009, Facebook reported that it had over 200 million active users worldwide, up from 50 million in October 2007. Neilson/Net Ratings reports that in April 2009 there were over 18 million unique Facebook visitors from the UK alone, each spending on average over five hours on the social networking site during the month. The same report shows over 30 million people logging on to Facebook from the work place in the United States. Some sites are focused on letting friends and family stay in touch (MySpace, Facebook) while others, such as LinkedIn and Plaxo serve to network the business community.

 

The most recent phenomenon is Twitter, which experienced a 1382% growth in the number of users over the period of February 2008 (475,000) to February 2009 (7,038,000) according to Neilsen/Net Ratings. With media giants such as ITV, News Corporation and Google buying up social networking sites – and other sites arriving on the scene constantly – there is little doubt that they are here to stay. Some sites are focused on letting friends stay in touch (MySpace, Facebook) while others,such as LinkedIn and Plaxo serve to network the business community.

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Study conducted by AT&T also found that the use of social networking tools increased efficiency. The company, which sells Internet connection services (a fact that reveals its stake in the matter), conducted an independent study that survey 2,500 employees in five European countries. Of the employees using social networking sites:

Sixty-five percent said social networking made their colleagues and themselves more efficient workers.
Forty-six percent found that it gave them more ideas and made them more creative.
Thirty-eight percent found that social networking helped them to gain knowledge and come up with solutions to problems.
Thirty-six percent reported that social networking allowed them to collect knowledge about employees and customers.
Thirty-two percent asserted that sites created team building opportunities.

Employees also reported that social networking has become part of the culture of their workplace

 

Pros

Networking, collaboration and information sharing
Marketing
Approach with caution
The MySpace generation
Approach with caution
Privacy
Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking
Data Leakage
Brand Credibility
Lost productivity
Cons

Privacy
Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking
Data Leakage
Brand Credibility
Lost productivity

 

 

Striking a Balance

What is worrying about social networking sites is that they encourage people to give as much information about themselves as possible. Even the most prudent and well-meaning individuals can give away information they should not – the same applies to what is put online via company-approved social networking platforms.

At the same time, nearly everyone today (even senior managers) has their own online profile on a social networking site and like the idea that they can keep in touch with contacts and friends (and their employees) via that interface.

 

If a business is going to allow access to social networking sites, there are some basic tips to follow:

1.      Restrict access. Give employees a breather and allow them to access social networking sites during their lunch break, before and after office hours. Web filtering software gives administrators the ability to implement time-based access to these and other sites.

2.      Educate and train staff. This is very important. Most employees are not aware how their actions online can cause security issues for the organization. Tell them in a language they understand how a simple click on a link they receive or an application they download can result in malware infecting their machine and the network. Additionally, tell them not to click on suspicious links and to pay attention when giving out personal details online. Just because employees are clever enough to have an online profile does not mean they are technically savvy or that they have a high level of security awareness.

3.      Set security and usage policies. Have all employees sign any policies related to the use of the Internet at work, access to social networking sites and what they are allowed to say or do during office hours. Monitoring of all Web activity is important, and employees should be aware that their actions are being recorded and that failure to adhere to company policy can result in disciplinary action and/or dismissal.

 

Conclusion

While social networking sites are currently enjoying a high profile, the challenges that they pose do not differ significantly from other forms of Web-based threats. Today’s employees expect to be allowed to access these sites while at work – albeit with some restrictions. Although some organizations are preventing employees from accessing such sites, the smart ones are deploying secure Web gateway technology combined with Acceptable Use Policies to keep the organization and their employees safe, while also providing a flexible working environment. Not only will this powerful combination protect against the current threats posed by social networking sites, it will also protect organizations from many, as yet unknown, Web-based threats.

References:

1.      Computer Weekly-July 2010

2.      Ezine article on Social networking-July 11 2007

3.      The Pros and Cons and Safety Aspects of Social Networking … ict in education-2010

4.       The State of Higher Education: Social Networking’s Pros and Cons-9 jan 2007

V V Narendra Kumar

MS(Software Systems),M.Tech(IT),[PhD]

Assoc.Professor,Informatics

Alluri Institute of Management Sciences,

Warangal,A.P.,India

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