Are you blocking social media? You are not alone

Depending on which study you are willing to buy into, Enterprises and Government agencies are either all on board with, or all against, the use of social strategies. In order to open up the discussion I reached out, and found, a few people who admit their companies/agencies block social media for all, or most, of their staff. To avoid the public lynching I have seen start on other platforms, I have decided to keep the name of the interviewed private, for now…..

Alright, I lied. Wayne Sadin was kind enough to chat about this topic and to allow me to link to his LinkedIn profile. Thanks Wayne, I appreciate you taking the time to weigh in on this topic.

Read on and let me know what you think, did they make the right choice in blocking social media?

Q. What kind of business were you working at when you blocked social media?
A. corporation with nearly 10,000 employees, most of whom were non-exempt (i.e., hourly) employees.

Q. Why did the business decide to block social media usage?
A. It was done as part of a review of our overall acceptable use policy, wherein we define what kinds of sites aren’t appropriate for employees to access using company resources. We looked at the aggregated number of person-hours/day for sites like Facebook, YouTube, etc., and saw that it was huge. We also looked at bandwidth consumption, especially bandwidth from HQ to our hundreds of branches, and saw that it was huge (to the point it sometimes interfered with system access).

Q. How do you decide which users get access to social media (if any)? What is the percentage of users that are enabled?
A. Everybody was initially treated the same. We left LinkedIn, Plaxo and Cardscan unblocked. And we installed a process whereby an employee can petition for access: either that site should be unblocked for all users, or that one or more sites should be unblocked for that employee. We unblocked a number of sites for everyone but very few sites for specific people.

Q. Do you see a return on investment for the users that social media is enabled for?
A. We believe our productivity has improved once we removed numerous temptations.

Q. What were the long range plans in terms of social media usage? No plan to ever enable?
A. Since the firm is business-to-business we don’t see a lot of need for general employee access to social networking sites beyond the few business-oriented sites mentioned earlier

Q. Anything else that you would like to add?
A. ** The underlying issue as I see it is what kind of work benefits from access to social media. I’ve already been attacked just for replying to your question (LOL). But I think LinkedIn users assume everyone at work is like themselves…knowledge workers whose work product benefits from unstructured collaboration with like-minded individuals mediated via social networks. The reality of work is that many people are task-focused and their work is done according to standards established by their employer. For this kind of work access to social media is a distraction that hampers productivity and hurts profitability. We’re NOT all knowledge workers, even in 2010!

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Daniel Bevarly

With a large workforce, all or nothing is probably the most manageable and easy to apply/enforce a policy. If productivity in this case is about how much time employees spend on non-work tasks like visiting a social network, then why open up a select few that are chosen by mgt based on what criteria? Seems to reward those who are active on those specific networks. Thinking as I write, I wonder if employees at this company are allowed to take smoking breaks and if consideration has been given as to how that affects productivity (using the definition stated above).

I know a call-center manager who created two stations in the center that had full web access (where individual workstations were blocked) and employees could scheduled time (breaks) when they could use them for visiting their social networks. Again, productivity was about maximizing time on work-related tasks; which I assume is the primary reason companies and organizations give for blocking access in addition to llimited bandwidth, liability etc.