Security Experts:

Web 2.0: Should Businesses Block or Embrace?

Social Media Acceptable Usage Policy - Why Allow Web 2.0 to Be Used in Business?

The consumerization of IT is affecting all aspects of the way we work.  As Web 2.0 technologies continue to gain popularity amongst employees, IT departments are struggling to understand and manage the challenges.

There was at time when “wireless” was taboo, and for fear of the unknown, strict workplace policies banned the use of wireless technologies.  “Thou shalt not” became the mantra of most IT departments, and has remained the mantra when dealing with applications like Facebook and Twitter.

Consumerization of IT

Unfortunately for employers, people still found ways to partake in these activities – unmanaged and unsecured.  If companies had initially recognized the potential of these outlets and found ways to embrace them in the first place, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble in the long run. 

One of the big dangers that companies are worried about is data loss or data leakage.  In regulated industries today, this is a huge problem, both through the network, and through Web 2.0 enabled devices.  If information is not encrypted – it’s a reportable incident.

There’s also a paradox in the mid-market.  The users are the same, but the IT departments don’t necessarily have the expertise, the resources or technology of a larger enterprise.  Smaller companies are more casual, often haven’t put policies in place, and therefore end up blocking these sites altogether.

Instead of forbidding social applications, it makes more sense for companies to simply put reasonable restrictions on them.  Employees these days, especially younger employees, expect to be able to access their network, to use their personal devices to access corporate networks.  This generation is not willing to accept limitations, and companies need to recognize that.  Doing so makes good business sense, and companies need to not only find ways to embrace these technologies, but to go a step further and actually have a face on these platforms.

Why allow Web 2.0 to be used in business?

 The Internet is an incredible productivity enhancer that you have to treat carefully.  It is risky to be on the Internet, but you have to be there.

First generation companies like American Airlines are reaping the benefits.  By utilizing Web 2.0 technologies, the company is able to short-circuit customer problems before they become bigger problems, allowing them to grow and expand.  They’ve shown how much more people are willing to spend on a product because of word-of-mouth.  If you’re a company that deals with consumers, and you’re not involved, you’re missing out on some serious potential.

Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

Get involved.  Your employees are!

Word of mouth is the primary factor behind many, if not most, purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers are buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive- factors that tend to make people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than they otherwise would. And its influence is likely to continue growing: the digital revolution has amplified and accelerated its reach to the point where word of mouth is no longer an act of intimate, one-on-one communication.

A study by Forrester Research that discusses new ways to consider influence in social media, found that consumers created 256 billion influence impressions about products and services last year and an additional 1.6 billion influence posts on product review sites and forums.

If someone you know comes to you to talk about a product you’re not familiar with, you’d most likely want to find out more about it. On the other hand, if you were to see the same product on TV, online or an outdoor campaign, it might not necessarily have the same appeal.

Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilizing consumers to talk up products online. (Etailing survey of 117 companies, September 2009)

Friends play an important role in influencing consumers. Eighty-three percent of online shoppers said they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place. (Manage Smarter, September 2009)

Users put great trust in their social networks. In an October 2009 eMarketer survey, one-half of respondents said they considered information shared on their networks when making a decision—and the proportion was higher among users ages 18 to 24, at 65%. Utilizing the power of word of mouth is something companies can’t afford not to capitalize on – they just need to figure out how to best use these channels to benefit themselves and their employees.

What companies should do -- Give them the tools to do it responsibly

Although users can’t trust every link that people post or control, companies can put forward best practices to arm employees with the tools they need to be productive and safe.  Between this type of education, and technology that can block dangerous links and applications, Web 2.0 can be used safely for business.

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing
view counter
Alex Thurber is senior vice president, worldwide channel operations and responsible for McAfee’s Global Midmarket Business.
Previous Columns by Alex Thurber:
view counter