The Social Networking Threat

Social Networking is a godsend and concern, a help and a hindrance, an amazing feat and a terrible nuisance. While these descriptors apply to the individual, they are exacerbated multiple times for a corporation. A corporation needs to be concerned with everything from profits to people, and social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, or the new Google+ among others have a tremendous impact on how a corporation looks at its priority list. Certain facets of social networking can be beneficial to businesses, for example, social networking provides a business with free publicity. In addition to publicity, social networking allows a business to into new markets and different demographics. Though networking brings many new possible clients and expands a business, it can also be riddled with potential pitfalls. For example, a business can divulge too much information via social networking. Also, privacy on sites like Facebook can be a little suspect, and thus put important corporate information at risk.

Now that a brief overview of the potential problems and possible benefits has been explored, a brief definition of Social Networking should be established. For this, the Wikipedia definition will suffice, “A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, who, for example, share interests and activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services.” This definition exemplifies that social networks are used for establishing links among people and while it is not explicitly stated corporations. However, it does not address the problems within social networking. This is a problem that cannot be overlooked or understated. Many dangers exist within the milieu of social networking, and they must be, explored.

Advantages

A few of the main goals of a corporation include the growth and sustainability of the company. Social networking provides a very advantageous solution to spreading the word about a company. Whether or not the company is a new up and coming or is looking to reformulate its image within the public eye, social networking can be beneficial. The client base is extensive, and the upkeep is at a low cost. With social networking corporations can hit multiple demographics and do it with an individualistic flair. Instead of a billboard advertisement trying to reach everyone, a corporation can use a Facebook post to reach a small population within the larger picture. Social networking can also be an option to solve communications problems. A recent news story that came out on July 6, 2011, discussed Facebook’s new chatting features, layout, and conference calling. As well as these new elements Facebook has also launched the ability to individually video chatting in a partnership with Skype. However, these new features are not the only ways that social networking affords corporations with regards to bridging the communication gap. Social networking could be used to reach the entire employee base within a corporation as a unifying force. Event notifications and shared calendars can ensure that projects be completed on time.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately not everything associated with social networking is positive. For a corporation, the adverse effects that social networking has on employee productivity can be a problem. People can spend company time on updating their Facebook profiles or checking their Twitter feed instead of working on valuable projects. Employees that would be working diligently are instead lured into complacency via social networking. A lack of productivity affects the company through the individual employee; however, social engineering and corporate espionage could compromise the entire corporation. In another blog, corporate espionage was discussed at length and its dangers. These risks are intensified through the use of social networking. People and employees can be seduced and compelled to divulge sensitive company information through social networking sites. Furthermore, once these secrets are published the ownership of the information is disputed. There is ambiguity within the law as to who owns responsibility for what is updated to these social networking websites. A study was done in Spain published on May 9, 2011, that dissected the problems with social networking. The study discussed where the blame falls about libel and slander cases. However, this study could also set a precedent that social networking sites by taking responsibility for the libel that could be posted on their websites also assume responsibility for anything posted on their sites including sensitive information or corporate secrets. From an information technology (IT) standpoint, social networking could have substantial costs due to the bandwidth required to manage these sites. The sites themselves may take up relatively small areas of bandwidth, but the problems ensue with the streaming of bandwidth-gobbling videos or music. This bandwidth shortage is problematic on an individual level because employees are less productive by looking at what their friends post, but also can be troubling to corporations heavily involved in publicizing itself via social networking sites. Corporations uploading promotional videos heralding their service or product on these sites can take up a lot of bandwidth traffic. This self-publicizing can create headaches for IT departments.

When it comes to maintaining friendships on the individual level social networking sites, provide tremendous opportunities. However, possible danger could exist for corporations and companies. These dangers include the possibility of a decline in worker productivity and the ability for social engineers to take advantage of employees otherwise known as corporate espionage. Although there are possible dangers to social networking, the possibilities afforded by networking are not entirely bleak. Many benefits can be extruded from the use of social networking sites. For example, a company can use sites like facebook and twitter to connect to specific demographics and reach out to them. In addition to that, the free publicity afforded by social networking sites is invaluable to corporations. The bottom line is social networking should be used but with extreme caution and assume.

 

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