The popularity of social media with professionals and knowledge workers has created some interesting opportunities and challenges for CIOs. In 2009 news media was abuzz about how businesses were using social media channels such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to raise brand awareness, connect with their partners and customers and to handle customer feedback. Companies remain divided about the use of social media at work: 54 Percent of CIOs ban social media at work. Your employees can play a big part in building brand reputation. To succeed at that, companies have to provide the right guidelines, training and tools.

Need for Corporate Guidelines
Email and IM has long been under the strict control of IT. But the explosion of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Discussion Boards, YouTube etc — poses new challenges for CIOs.  Realizing that it is only a matter of time before social media will be an essential part of the work routine, organizations are working on defining the policies for social media. A recent Forrester survey showed that 45% of organizations surveyed had a published social media policy.

Role of CIOs in Social Media
Whether it is internal use of social media or external branding and sales, CIOs have a critical role. CIOs should help HR, marketing, sales, product to leverage social media for company’s advantage. CIOs are expected to provide the technical strategy and tools to execute social media strategy and provide results on its effectiveness while avoiding security breaches or a social media meltdown. CIOs need to keep a delicate balance: put too many restrictions and you alienate your knowledge workers. Let social media run without enough controls and you could have major headaches. Depending on the vertical and the degree of regulation involved, this could be huge issue.

A few questions which CIOs need to ask about social media:

  1. Are you monitoring the social media for your brand/product and for market intelligence?
  2. Is the employee’s use of social media aligned with the company’s social media strategy?
  3. Are the employees following company guidelines for social media usage? Can you verify that?
  4. Are employees using social media on work PC, work phone or other personal devices?
  5. Which social sites are best aligned with your strategy and goals?
  6. What is the content that they are consuming or posting?
  7. Do you have the right set of communication and collaboration tools for internal company use?
  8. Have you conducted security, risk, and privacy assessments?
  9. Do you have processes and tools to handle customer service using social media?
  10. What is the overall cost of all this in terms of technology, process and human time?

As a CIO , you also need to be aware of the potential problems with social media and how to avoid them.

Brand damage. Employees can accidentally cause damage to the brand. In some cases there have been disgruntled employees who posted negative content about their company or brand. A good social media policy should address social media and external communication as part of business code of conduct. As ReadWriteWeb puts it: Like physicians you need to show that your service will “do no harm”.

Exposing company intellectual property. When employees use external social sites, a company has little or no control over it. Having the right policy, monitoring the social sites for your brand mentions and having the right controls at the workplace are important.

Falling victim to malware and social engineering attacks. This is where CIOs need to take the lead. Consumer Social media tools have introduced a whole new avenue for malicious attacks. Awareness and education is the best approach. For instance, both Twitter and Facebook had multiple security issues and users of these sites are susceptible to phishing attacks. There’s also the risk of clicking on an unknown link leading to a site with malware.

Stay tuned for the answer and discussion for customer service through social media in an upcoming blog post.

Additional Information:

The use of social media for federal services and interactions is growing tremendously, supported by initiatives from the administration, directives from government leaders, and demands from the public. This situation presents both opportunity and risk. Guidelines and recommendations for using social media technologies in a manner that minimizes the risk are analyzed and presented in this document.

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