We are pleased to bring you a guest blog post today from Richard Nantel, co-CEO of the Brandon Hall Group, a research and analyst organization focused on developing research driven solutions to drive organizational performance for emerging and large organizations.
By Richard Nantel
Last week, professional social networking site LinkedIn completed what Bloomberg described as “hottest initial public offering in the U.S. since at least 2006.” Canada’s Globe and Mail wrote that “LinkedIn is the first prominent U.S. social networking company to publicly test just how hungry investors are for anything social-media related on the web such as Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga.”
Clearly, more than a few speculators are hungry for a piece of the social media pie. They drove up the valuation of LinkedIn on its first day of trading to over $8 billion U.S.
Underlying stratosphere-high evaluations is the assumption that public social networking platforms are becoming ecosystems within the greater Internet. “Provided with rich features and a potential wealth of social connections, users are expected to spend more time within networks, having little need to venture outside the sites’ walls for information, applications, or virtual social interaction.”
Public social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have millions of users. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to assume organizations have embraced public social networks as virtual workplace environments. The reality, though, is that apart from leveraging public social media sites for marketing and possibly talent acquisition, fewer use these sites for internal communication, collaboration, and learning.
A significant number of organizations continue to block their workers from accessing public social media sites from behind the firewall. It’s easy to assume that organizations do so to eliminate worker distraction and raise productivity. But in reality, organizations that block public social networks do so for two reasons: security and privacy.
Third-party applications running on public networks have at times been malicious. It’s very easy to get naïve users to click on a malicious link in a platform such as Facebook. Have you received a post saying something like “Hey, I have this hilarious video of you dancing. Your face is so red. You should check it out.” Click that link and you’ll likely install malicious code that will require IT support staff’s time and effort to eradicate.
At Montréal’s McGill University, where I serve on the advisory board of the School of Continuing Studies, educators may not use social networks such as Facebook for learning. They are instead instructed to use the University’s own learning management system and other applications. The university believes that no student should be forced to join a public social network that could compromise the individual’s right to privacy. Forcing users to sign up for a social network account could potentially lead to legal challenges.
To address security and privacy concerns, many organizations are looking to provide social platforms in-house. To meet this need, some solution providers are now including into their applications social network features such as news feeds, the ability to friend people, the ability to rate content, as well as means to communicate and collaborate.
SkillSoft inGenius™is an example of the one such application. Within inGenius, users can:
- Create personal profiles and identify their areas of interest and expertise.
- Build personal networks by “following” friends, experts, and colleagues with similar interests
- Monitor network activity through a news feed
- Post content to the network
- Add comments to content
In assessing the use of social networking within the workplace, organizations don’t need to struggle with weighing the benefits versus the privacy and security risks. An easy alternative is to bring social in-house.