Business Brains

Even if you don't intend to use social media, your employees will

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I am not an expert on social media -- frankly NO ONE really can claim that they are -- but I write about it alot elsewhere in the context of business ...

I am not an expert on social media -- frankly NO ONE really can claim that they are -- but I write about it alot elsewhere in the context of business usage, which has inspired a growth number of companies over the past two months to reach out to me to talk about its implications for their marketing and brand strategies. I kid you not.

I think the tide turned when some of the biggest of the big newsweekly magazines, including Time, began featuring things like Twitter on their cover.

Repeat after me: The world will not end if your CEO doesn't start Tweeting this week. But if your top executives aren't discussing what to do about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and all the other Web 2.0 applications that are invading your employees lives, you're going to be left behind.

At the very least, you need to create a strategy to protect your brand and your proprietary data. The fact is, you employees are already using this software, whether you sanction it or not. You need to get a grip on how and put some corporate policies in place. The trick is balancing your need to protect certain corporate information with creating an environment that encourages your employees to experiment on your behalf. The last thing you want to do is come off as Big Brother.

Consider this data point released Aug. 10 by internet email and security services company Proofpoint: Approximately 13 percent of U.S. companies have investigated a data breach related to text messaging or Twitter during the past 12 months; meanwhile, roughly 18 percent report an incident related to blogs. Here's the press release detailing the Proofpoint survey, which covered about 220 companies with businesses with more than 1,000 employees.

This article from Mashable provides some tips on what your social media policy guide should cover, as does this separate blog from PR-Squared. I also recommend taking a peek at these guidelines from IBM. Yes, I know they are a tech company and have a vested interest in this stuff, but they have been experimenting since 2005, so this is a document that has evolved over four years of social media in practice.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure