The Critical Role of IT In Social Media

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The Two Key Roles for IT In Social Media are Business Service Enablement and Digital Asset Guardianship

What a great day we had at the Pink Elephant Social Media Event this week in Toronto! David Ratcliffe, Chris Dancy and I presented a full day agenda of topical sessions related to the opportunities and risks stemming from the tidal wave adoption of social media in both the private and commercial sectors. The attendees were very engaged and were almost to a person asking the same questions.

Q: What is the relevance of Social Media to IT Groups and what do we do with it?

This is the same question I hear over and over again from the various IT leaders and organizations we work with. For many Social Media is largely a problem, something to control or block from within company firewalls and network perimeters.

In other words Social Media is a nuisance they would rather not bother with and is getting in the way of their real work of managing the organization's technology environment.

This was certainly the perception of several of the event attendees who came looking for ways to control, limit or completely block the business users from social media sites during work hours or on company devices. "We certainly wouldn't want employees wasting company time in non-productive activities!" From that point of view Social Media is only something of interest and value to individuals for personal use. However, many organizations and IT Leaders have not understood that there is more to this topic then they might think.

What our industry is just beginning to realize is that Social Media is also an extension of our customer's business service strategy.  Business customers are hungry for ways to innovate, differentiate and improve their value proposition to the market. The world is "Literally" connecting from a variety of technology devices in unprecedented ways on these emerging networking platforms.  Millions of people globally are talking about and commenting on pretty much everything under the sun including your companies' products and services. The fact of the mater is that if an organization wishes to reach and communicate with their clients, constituents and citizens they must go where the people are!

At the Pink event we impressed upon the attendees the Tsunami speed of adoption to raise the urgency of this topic.

  • Social Media adoption has surged to staggering heights. While Facebook has over 618 million users (As of Today) 100 Million new users added in the last 6 months
  • LinkedIn has over 75 million worldwide.
  • Twitter, 105,779,710 registered users account for approximately 750 tweets each second
  • Facebook platform houses over 550,000 active applications and is integrated with more than one million websites

With recent technology advancements such as access to the web via high speed connections, the proliferation of mobile computing devices we have had years to adjust and establish methodologies and approaches. In the case of Social Media we are seeing massive change in the matter of months if not weeks.

A recent Burson-Marsteller study shows that, "of the Fortune Global 100 companies, 65% have active Twitter accounts, 54% have Facebook fan pages, 50% have YouTube video channels and 33% have corporate blogs" 

For these compelling reasons Businesses, Non-Profits, and Government Agencies are rushing to extend their existing web strategies to include and incorporate social media functionality and feeds into their service lines. Business customers of IT such as Marketing, Sales, HR, Research and Development, Product Support are engaging "NOW" in the Social Media and cloud activities.  Albeit many organizations are doing so in an uncoordinated, un- planned and ill advised manner.

The problem is that they are not necessarily working with the IT Leadership to do this! Why should they? (Sarcasm)

  • They don't need IT's permission
  • They don't need new technology (At a pinch a browser will do)
  • They are not exactly getting an enthusiastic response from us if they actually ask for help
  • They believe IT is not agile enough and are focused more on controlling and limiting their goals versus enabling them

Not surprising then why many of our business customers take a "don't ask don't tell approach" to their social media activities!

Consider for the moment the ITIL Definition of a Service: "A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific cost and risks.

So if Social Media is something the "Customer Wants" then we should be stepping up to the plate and helping them achieve the expected value by applying good practices to manage risk and costs.

In short we should be Enabling Business Service Outcomes by working this requirement through a well thought out Service Life Cycle Strategy, Design, Transition, Operations and CSI process. (Sound Familiar) We should participate in this activity as a Partner versus a Road Block

This is one of the topics I addressed in my session on Monday and will speaking to again at the Pink conference in Vegas in a couple of weeks.


Of course with opportunity and reward comes risk!

It is our job in IT to also be the Guardian of our customer's Digital Assets. Our customers look to IT leadership to help establish technology and policy controls that will mitigate the very real risks that engaging in social media or general online activities presents.

Cyber criminals are like sharks which cluster where the action is, and the action is certainly happening on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In etc.

The key consideration here is that we must stop thinking that the digital security perimeter exists only inside the company's network firewall.  Consider the following quotes from the Annual CISCO Security Report:

  • Consider social media. Its impact on computer security cannot be overstated, It is common for workers to blend business and personal communications on these social networks, further blurring the network perimeter
  • The high levels of trust that users place in social networks - that is, users' willingness to respond to information appearing within these networks - has provided ample opportunity for new and more effective scams. Instead of searching out technical vulnerabilities to exploit, criminals merely need a good lure to hook new victims
  • No longer does business take place solely behind network walls. The critical work of an organization is happening increasingly on social networks, on handheld devices, on Internet kiosks at airports, and at local cafes
  • Social Media "Were The Problem" Social media users believe there is protection in being part of a community of people they know. Criminals are happy to prove this notion wrong

The key point to consider is that we need to understand and effectively manage risks related to web and social media activity. IT leadership needs to open their eyes to the business opportunity as well as the risk and actively engage our customers in helping them to achieve their goals. Focusing our security efforts only on blocking URL's and domains from within company firewalls is too narrow minded, short sited, doomed to failure and like the story of the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the leaky dam. Being an effective Guardian of our Customer's Digital Assets means taking a holistic and people centric approach to managing both technical and social engineering attacks from within and outside our firewalls.

Troy's Thoughts What Are Yours?


Quote: "If you don't like change your going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki Chief of Staff US Army

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Troy, interesting how you state that IT is too frequently viewed by social media users as an obstacle instead of an aid to help end users optimize the use of this technology for better business results. What a great way for an IT shop to demonstrate their willingness to align better with their business community that to advance the use of this new technology to improve business goals. How would that IT shop be viewed by their users if their sponsored social media workshops early in the adoption cycle, or provided an internal blog re: effective business use of social media, or listed links from social media thought leaders re: do's and don'ts of the technology?You emphasize how fast social media is happening ...a great reason for IT to be in front of the curve instead of behind it. I'm sure this was your emphasis in the presentation/discussion ...hope they heard. Bill

The idea that IT should manage your company's social strategy is pretty ridiculous. It should be part of the customer-facing side of the company - preferably Marketing AND Customer Support - together.

As a marketeer and IT professional, I'm not sure I see the connection between IT and social media unless the infrastructure is set up inside a business. I say this as someone who has spent a great deal of time in recent months both studying and deploying inbound marketing via social media technologies. As a business service management practice it relates in driving growth for the business, internally the technologies are useful in driving collaboration and efficiency, but only if there is value to the business for the objective of the practice.

It's not ITs job to throttle, govern or manage social media. IT as usual in seeing it as a nuisance and bother is acting as the usual obstacle and not deploying Business Service Management practices in seeking to grow the business..... read more here ->

Michele Hudnall @HudnallsHuddle @BSMHub

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Troy DuMoulin published on February 2, 2011 2:38 PM.

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