Like many of my CIO peers, my initial approach to social media was to block it.
You can’t blame us. We were just doing our jobs! Social was seen as unknown, feared, a waste of time. In order to protect our business organizations, we had to restrict access to it.
While many still feel that way, some for very valid reasons beyond their control (think compliance reasons), the truth is this: By ignoring social media, your organization is ignoring what can be a very valuable channel.
Whether you call it social media, social networking, or social business (I prefer the latter), the end goal, for business users, is to impact the bottom line. The dotcom era taught us that the models may change but the fundamentals of business remain constant. I have realized, as a CIO, that I’ve had to let go of my fears and embrace social media, for the betterment of my organization.
Why? For starters, the stats consistently show that these networks are growing. Twitter is said to be past 500 million users. Facebook is past 1 billion. In less than it’s first year of operation, Larry Page announced that Google+ had over 90 million users.
At some point in my journey as CIO, the numbers became unavoidable. Despite my original instinct to block all access, I realized I had to reverse our policy of fear and replace it with one of knowledge, awareness, and access where appropriate.
Our original policies allowed associates to make mention via a status update that they now work for our firm, but that is all they could say. The reality is I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to as controls don’t exist and organizations cannot extend their reach into the lives of their associates.
Now we have a policy that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities that an associate can undertake, that opens the door to using social technologies, and is supported by internal education to raise everyone’s understanding and awareness of this space. As we mature in our use of social business tools, so will our policy need to adapt.
This shift in policy will change the way my organization interacts with social media, and the way I do as well.
Personally, I now network with folks much smarter than I am. I learn about things through chat exchanges, I find out about “try before you buy opportunities,” and I keep up with friends.
For my organization, it's all about connecting with existing and future customers. We now have a deeper understanding of social marketing, and of the fact that – on social platforms – marketing takes a different shape: People want to interact with people, not organizations.
Overall social media is an interesting mix of exposure, status, blogging, connection, IT support, and knowledge sharing. All of the above has allowed me, an IT guy previously set in his ways and fearful of allowing access to the unknown, to see social media as a viable network we need to be engaged in, and to understand that -- in order to reap the benefits of social -- our corporate policies must match that vision.
Nigel Fortlage is the Vice President of Information Technology at GHY International