Don’t be afraid of Social Media in the workplace

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This post was submitted by Ben Bartle, Technical Marketing Engineer 

Social Media usage in the workplace has been a hotly discussed topic with points made on both sides of the fence.

On the one hand, there is a strong argument that social media usage should be restricted because of productivity and security concerns. I recently came across an interesting statistic regarding social media usage that highlighted this view point.

I also came across this tool that claims to measure the amount of time wasted on Facebook.  (If you must know, I have wasted 30 days over my 6 years as a Facebook user. What’s your number?)

However, there is a compelling counter argument to be made as well.

Many companies today effectively leverage the power of social media for advertising and real-time marketing. Also it has been pointed out that blocking social media in the workplace might actually decrease company morale!

My personal experience echoes this. I joined Facebook to share pictures with a group of friends. Over the years, I have used it to reconnect with classmates, out of state family, and fellow Marines. I use it to share life events and meet old friends. However, there are definitely occasions when I want my time back after reading a solicitation for the vitamins or candles that my “friend” sells online. I definitely don’t care and don’t want to know that my “friends” need help getting more cows for their play farm. I certainly don’t want to see yet another video of a cat chasing a laser pointer.

It’s difficult to pick a side here. The fact is social media is a double-edged sword. If used properly, it can be a powerful tool for business. At the same time, it can severely impact productivity and also expose users and companies to a number of threats such as identity theft, phishing, data leakage, productivity loss, malware, malicious links, social engineering scams and spam to name a few.

Our customers are definitely concerned about these threats. However, they increasingly prefer to regulate and monitor social media access as opposed to blocking these sites outright. The key here is to leverage the power of social media in the workplace while implementing the right policies to minimize the adverse effects.

The technology exists to enable access to social media while restricting the types of the things that are not work-related. For example, a company may want to allow corporate updates to a page while restricting access to games. We recently released a whitepaper on some of the technical aspects of this: you can download it here (pdf).

Ultimately it is up to company policy to allow or restrict access to Facebook and other social networking sites. Technology like Barracuda’s security appliances allow you to enforce your desired policies.

What do you think?

You can read more details about this in our whitepaper “Social media control with the Barracuda Webfilter.” (pdf)

Ben Bartle is a Technical Marketing Engineer in the Content Security Group. He works with the Barracuda Web Filter, Barracuda Spam Firewall, Barracuda Web Security Service, and Barracuda Email Security Service. If you’d like to get in touch with Ben, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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