3 hidden social networking dangers for companies

Social networking can be a boon for businesses’ marketing and customer service efforts – or it can have a significant negative effect on the bottom line. A recent study looked at the cost of social networking for business when it’s not used properly.

Nearly all (94%) of companies have dealt with a social networking problem in the past 12 months, according to a recent survey conducted by security vendor Symantec. Among the 1,200 businesses surveyed, the average organization had nine incidents.

The most common consequences of those incidents were:

  1. Damaged brand and reputation (28%)
  2. Loss of important data (27%), and
  3. Lost revenue (25%).

Those issues come with very real financial costs, Symantec points out, due to reduced stock price, litigation costs, and the loss of current and potential customers.

What are the biggest dangers lurking on Facebook and other social networking sites?

These are the top three social networking problems for businesses, as well as how the IT department can help avoid them:

1. Release of confidential information

In the Symantec survey, 46% of IT managers had problems with users sharing too much information on public sites in the past year.

Information leaked through social networks can include trade secrets, customer data, and product news that’s not ready to be announced — those can all have serious consequences if made public.

How IT can help: The first step to controlling the spread of confidential information through social networking sites is to create a written policy outlining what employees can and cannot say online. Also, firms can consider investing in technology that monitors what employees do on social networking sites so potentially harmful posts can be discovered right away.

2. Legal trouble

Sometimes trying to control employees’ online behavior can actually cause bigger problems than it solves. Take a recent court case involving an ambulance driver who was fired for insulting her boss on Facebook.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took the company to court on the grounds that employees have a legal right to openly discuss their working conditions — in person and online.

How IT can help: That and other cases could convince companies to make sure their social networking policies aren’t too strict. In a recently published document, the NLRB highlights several agency decisions in which the board decided a company’s rules prohibiting employees from making any disparaging remark against the company online violated the workers’ rights.

3. Malware and cyberscams

As Facebook and other social networking sites have become more popular, they’ve gotten a lot of attention from criminals looking to push malware or steal confidential information. That’s especially troubling for IT because of how much time users spend on those sites at work.

How IT can help: In addition to keeping antivirus software and other security tools up to date, IT can also train users on how to identify and avoid common networking scams. For a list of some of the most common Facebook scams out there now, click here.

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