Social Media & the IT Guy

Social Media and the IT Guy

People who market to businesses, (I really don’t like the expression B2B but I guess that’s what it is) often seem to complain that social media marketing techniques are not as successful as they are when marketing to consumers.

I’m not sure this is totally true, especially if you include blogs as being part of social media, but it is a fact that there are not too many people in manufacturing spending a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter.

So why is this? Obviously part of the reason is that people these days are usually pretty busy – their company has probably reduced the workforce so people have little time to spare.

One other reason is the dreaded IT Guy.

The IT guy (yes, I know the IT guy might well be the IT lady or IT team, but I don’t feel like typing IT person everytime. I really hope you’ll bear with me on this one) isn’t happy unless everything is locked down so that it is impossible to get to anything useful on the Internet.

Actually to be fair quite often these are company rules and the IT guy just has the task of carrying them out. Let’s have a look at some of reasons might have their Internet access restricted:

Stop time wasting. This is a good one; I can’t believe how many companies I go to where multiple people (starting with the receptionist if there still is one) are playing solitaire on the company’s PC. I don’t see how being able to access some useful web content would be more of a time waster. In anycase, these days companies can’t afford to have people loafing around – however they are doing it.

Using bandwidth. Hmm, how many businesses are paying by the GB for bandwidth? Not too many I suspect.

Watching porn. This one I do agree needs to be blocked. I don’t believe anyone, unless working in the adult entertainment industry would have a problem with this. Same thing with sites such as on-line betting which are illegal here in the US. You want to do this? Fine – do it at home!

Bringing malware into the network. This is always a concern. I believe the IT folks need to make the assumption that everyone is very capable of going to a bad site, clicking a link on the wrong email etc and having the systems in place to deal with it.

Visiting sites of categories considered to be inappropriate. This is where it gets interesting. Here are some examples of blocked categories from my company:

Health – a lot of our clients are hospitals or healthcare organizations so we can’t go to their site for information.

Weapons manufacturers – hmm, big part of our business is which DoD contractors.

Blogs and forums – crazy, most of what I learn these days comes from blogs but I’m blocked from seeing many of them (including this one) at my office.

Social Media – forget it. Unless you want to get another job, Linkedin is available – get those resumes posted.

I get the impression that our company is pretty typical with choosing to block certain types of on-line content. All in all, a bit of a pain.

What’s the solution? I hear you cry!

Well some companies have innovative ways around the problem. One of our clients has an area set up (they call it the Town Square) with table and workstations where anyone can go online during their breaks or when they need to. The workstations have internet access but no access to the company network. Employees can check their email, do their banking or whatever they need to do without fear of them bringing in malware. I think this is a great idea.

My personal workaround is to use my iPhone as much as possible. I find I can do about 90% of what I need this way. If it became more of a problem, I’d get an AT&T access card for my laptop.

Another good workaround is to use the RSS feeds that Twitter provides. Say you want to keep up with #IranElection but you can’t access Twitter. No problem use Twitter Search to search for #IranElection and subscribe to the provided feed. You can then follow updates in Google Reader or other feed reader.

I often wonder whether locking employees out from social media and other sites is actually holding businesses back. I know it often takes me longer to get things done than it really should. I’d much prefer to treat this as a peopel management issue and not block everyone from potentially useful content.

What do you think? Are you fighting the IT guy or is your business more enlightened? Would giving people access to social media help the business with new ideas or would it just waste time?


  1. says

    Some interesting points, here. Obviously, it matters a lot what the type of business is. The town square is not a bad idea for personal stuff, but doesn't help with the problem of work related blocked Internet access. There are people of course who will always abuse any privilege, but they should probably be dealt with on an individual basis instead of with blanket blocking. Great post! Will be interested in others comments.

    • David says

      Hey Roger! I think the problem is that we still have old style attitudes when it comes to network access.

      I'd agree that there are categories of sites (porn in particular) that need to be blocked on corporate networks, but in general these decisions are being made by people who should be embracing the use of technology not trying to stop it.

      For example, in our company, blogs are a category that is blocked. I don't know about you, but I bet 90% of what I learn comes from one blog or another. Thanks to my phone, I have a workaround so not a big deal for me personally. But why should an organization make it hard for people to get info they need.

      Like you say, it's a people management problem, not a technology problem.


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