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Enterprise Vault

How IT is responding to employee use of social media: global survey results

Created: 21 Jul 2011 • Updated: 25 Jul 2011
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Social media has exploded in recent years into a trillion dollar industry. Once considered a fringe marketing tool at best, it went mainstream and left hobbyists in its rearview mirror.

Organizations have realized that social media can be a valuable resource for generating revenue and brand recognition. Wary IT departments once flirted with blocking access. Today, it’s a rare organization that avoids the use of social media in the office. But as employees embrace these tools for personal and business use, IT departments need to make sure related legal and regulatory issues and security risks are being addressed in the same manner as email, IM and other communications tools in the office.

In order to assess the effects of social media on enterprises, Symantec recently conducted a flash poll of 1225 enterprises, representing 33 countries. The results reveal that employees are actively engaged in using social media tools. Did I give that away earlier? With these survey results, we now have data to highlight IT’s main concerns and how enterprise IT is responding to social media use by their employees.

Social Media Is Pervasive within the Enterprise

Social media has taken hold in corporations around the world. While 45 percent of employees use it for personal reasons, corporate use is quickly catching up. Currently, 42 percent of employees use tools such as forums, social networks and blogs for business use. Social media continues to develop as a business tool.

Enterprises Are Concerned about the Negative Effects

As social media use increases, so do the worries of IT administrators and C-level management. The risks they are most worried about include employees sharing too much information publicly (cited by 46 percent of respondents), damage to the corporate brand or reputation (40 percent) and exposure to malware (37 percent).

In addition to the perceived risks, IT professionals also expressed higher-level concerns. The largest of these is compliance with government/commercial data protection regulations, cited by 45 percent of respondents. Other concerns were compliance with corporate information retention policies (45 percent) and management of eDiscovery (37 percent).

In light of these worries, more than 75 percent of enterprises are at least discussing the implementation of policies regarding employee use of social media tools. And this is with good reason: on average, the enterprises surveyed had experienced an average of 9 social media incidents within the last 12 months. These had wide-ranging consequences, from litigation, to falling stock prices, to damaged brand reputation or customer trust. The total cost absorbed due to these incidents within the past year averaged more than $4 million for each company.

In order to combat the costs of social media incidents, enterprises are discussing several programs to mitigate the damage done by improper social media activities. These precautions include employee training and instituting processes to archive social media information. However, less than 25 percent of organizations have already implemented these measures.

Symantec Recommendations

Despite the concerns surrounding it, social media can be successfully utilized with the right preparation. It should be treated as any other form of corporate communications, by defining policies and training employees throughout the organization. Make sure you understand the regulations applicable to your company. To ensure accountability among employees, establish an oversight process to monitor all social media activity.

In addition to training, consider implementing a solution to archive social media content. This will not only allow businesses to easily track their own activity, but also comply with eDiscovery requirements in case of investigation.

Another useful tool to keep sensitive information from leaking out to social networks is to implement a data loss prevention solution.

Like many other business tools, social media presents you with an opportunity to improve your relationship with customers – and potential customers. But if used incorrectly, it can cause damage to your brand, and even violate the law. Establishing and following a plan through employee training and archiving solutions can help you navigate the risks and ensure that you enjoy the benefits of social media without exposing yourself to the risks.