My first morning living there, I stood and gazed while sporting my bathrobe and a cup of coffee admiring the world around me. I could see everything. I could see everyone. Then it happened, someone waved up at me. Reality check--looks like everyone could see me too! To no surprise, my very first purchase was a glorious set of blinds. Now I have the sole option and right to let people into my world only when I choose. No one likes to feel exposed. No one likes to feel that vulnerable.
So this is why I am amazed that we voluntarily offer an expansive window-view into our lives, our homes, our family, our work, and our vacations with social networking sites such as Facebook. It seems about 250 million of us are on Facebook with 100,000 new people joining every day. I joined Facebook two years ago and I'll admit to having had warming experiences reconnecting and networking with old friends.
That said, I was also extremely conscious of the information my profile was suggested I provide--my status, birthplace, photos, birth date with year, e-mail, phone number, likes, dislikes--it just felt too invasive.
If you are away from home, please don't tell everyone on Facebook. Do we typically open your blinds and post a "vacancy" sign on your window to let prospective burglars know when the house will be empty?
Already we hear rumblings that the use of social networking sites in homes may lead to the rise of property insurance premiums. Let's not forget other threats such as identity theft and harassment. Prospective employers are now habitually look to social media to get the "right" candidate.
Businesses face Facebook risk too. At the outset, it was simply a productivity issue with employees. Now, Facebook is seeing cybercriminal attacks stealing employee and corporate information to their advantage. This fact has caused more than 70 percent of companies to block employee access to Facebook. Gone are the days of only blocking sinister sites related to pornography or illegal activities.
My prediction: social media tools are not going away. Quite the opposite, they are growing. They will likely change the very nature of our marketing landscapes and will likely increase a company's risk exposure. But is blocking access to such sites the best solution?
Businesses can deeply benefit from such transformational communication opportunities. Blogs, microblogs, message boards, video streaming hubs and thought search engines are all wonderful opportunities to touch your customers and gain valuable intelligence and that precious competitive advantage.
Recognizing that information on social media hubs can easily flow in and out of a company, it is time for improved planning such as an Internet Reputation Risk Management Plan. These plans intend to allow customer feedback on social media, and for employees' interaction on the networks. They enable companies to manage content relevant to their company on sites for which they have little control.
Overall, it's about controlling your company message and actively monitoring online interaction. An alive and healthy Internet presence is vital for survival. We shouldn't live our lives with our window blinds shut all the time. Don't miss the glorious views of what's ahead.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI, the former risk manager for a global energy company, is a leading specialist in innovative Enterprise Risk Management methods and implementation techniques for ERM Quickstart.
October 15, 2009
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