Recently, a commenter on this blog asked a question that I often hear, "What do you say to corporate people worried about security risks of social media within a company?" It's one of my favorite questions, because it really exposes the way we look at risk, which is all-too-human and, simultaneously, dumb.

I like to tell people that social media does not involve a risk. It's not a risk that someone will do something dumb someday. Actually, it is a certainty. If you allow employees to use social media, someone at some time will do something mind-numbingly idiotic.

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It might be, as the questioner asks, a security breach. Someone decides that a trade secret would be just the thing to spice up their next tweet. Or it might be something else--making fun of your client, or sexually harassing someone, or telling a politically incorrect joke.

And, in fact, all of these things have been done on social media, and more. The problem, however, isn't social media. It's us. If we don't have the self-control to avoid that kind of behavior, then it will come out in social media or any other place that we operate.

The reason we see social media, or anything new, as risky is as fundamental as human nature. Studies tell us that we always are more comfortable with the status quo than with change, which has probably served mankind well throughout our history.

But risk doesn't disappear just because we are comfortable and accustomed to something. Think about financial risk. Many people were once comfortable with bank savings accounts because their money was growing, but they were running a huge risk that inflation would eat alive their purchasing power. Unfortunately, the risk of changing the investment loomed larger than the risk of staying the course, which seemed safe.

Social media, and just about anything new, is the same. You always have to balance the risk of doing it against the risk of not doing it.

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July 22, 2009





Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.






Comments(1)

Great points Mike -- I really like this: "The problem, however, isn't social media. It's us. If we don't have the self-control to avoid that kind of behavior, then it will come out in social media or any other place that we operate." I agree, companies shouldn't be afraid to use social media -- in fact, people seem to enjoy the fact that there are real human's just like them behind the corporate veil. To "reduce risk" however, I think there a few steps that companies can take. For one, don't give just anyone in the company access to speaking on your company's behalf. Appoint a few 'brand ambassadors' that are great communicators to the job of social networking -- and then let them do their thing while setting some general guidelines, but not too many restrictive guidelines.

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