03/23/2012 04:46 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Social Media: Good, Bad, or Ugly for Your Company?


Social media is pervasive in society today. But as an increasingly important tool to reach their prime audience, corporations are struggling to adapt and often lack the policies to properly address the role of social media within the organization.

There is no doubt that social media presents numerous challenges for corporations, including security and productivity.

One of the most common concerns about social media is the perceived time waste. We hear leaders lament that by allowing employees access to social media in the workplace, they'll spend all their time posting to Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and tweeting instead of working.

But new studies are emerging to show that's just not the case. Surprised?

A recent series of AIIM whitepapers called "When social media meets business real work gets done" looked at the role of social media for enterprise QA, sales, and innovation. I was interested to see that organizations who had implemented an "Open Innovation" (OI) processes realized positive and tangible benefits. In fact, 48 per cent of respondents engaging in OI report that it has already yielded major changes to internal processes, and 34 per cent report major changes to their external offerings.

Further, the AIIM report stated that "OI brings results and improves both products and processes. As an interviewee said, 'There are probably 3 or 4 million dollar ideas sitting in the company but their voices are not being heard.' Open Innovation allows those voices to be heard."

The big question for businesses becomes how to tap into the positive aspects of social media with its ability to foster higher levels of collaboration, without compromising security.

For more thoughts on this issue, I turn to Intel's Chief Information and Security Officer, Malcolm Harkins, who shares via video blog that companies which fear social media and put blocks in place to prevent access in the workplace are doing more harm than good.

"I believe those types of mechanisms or controls are futile. I don't think they reduce the risk at all and in fact I think they increase the risk," he says. "The only way to manage the risk in the social computing era we are in today is to embrace it."

Harkins describes people as the corporate security perimeter and explains that corporations need to teach staff about appropriate ways to use social media. Better to educate and embrace than ban access. After all, more industrious staffers will find ways around the security which could lead to a costly breach.

Over the next few months, I'll also share results from a recent survey I commissioned that looks at the top issues and concerns of CIOs for 2012 and beyond. Not surprising, social media and security were top of mind.

For now, I'd like to hear your thoughts: Is social media a bane or boon to productivity? Does it foster innovation and open new communications channels for staff and customers? Can corporations protect security in this new communications arena? What are you doing to manage social media in your workplace?