Using Social Networking in Firms: Should We Open Pandora’s Box?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Mark Chun, PhD

Mark Chun, PhD

There’s been controversy surrounding the topic of whether or not firms should allow their employees to use social networking at work. From one perspective, social networking can be an additional avenue for knowledge exchange. From another perspective, it can expose firms to the risk of compromised productivity and disclosure of intellectual property.

To what extent should firms allow their employees to utilize social networking in the workplace?

What do you think? The objective of this blog is to facilitate discussion on this topic. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts in the comment box below.  Ideas from this discussion thread will be extracted for topic ideas in the “Birds of a Feather” discussion groups at the National Knowledge Management Conference, taking place Sept. 1, 2010 at Pepperdine University. If you want to learn more about the conference and guest speakers, visit

Dr. Chun will be posting live updates from the conference on

Topic: Knowledge Management
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Darren Wolcott

July 9, 2010 at 5:33 PM

This is a interesting topic as at our small company to drive sales we have adopted a somewhat informal aspect to marketing through social networking.
I can not say yet how the test phase is going as of yet, but from our first week using social networking we have generated 13 leads for new sales.
Having handed the leads over to the V.P of sales we will hear next week what has become of these generated leads.
From my perspective 13 new leads in a week is tremendous.


July 10, 2010 at 6:35 PM

Our firm doesn’t allow users to access facebook, myspace, twitter or many sports-affiliated websites. This is due to many employee violations recently in which users uploaded world cup soccer live online video feeds which nearly caused our servers to crash.

Lars Thorn

July 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

It seems that the idea of social media has become so big daunting that it is somewhat intimidating for employers to handle and know how to limit and utilize. The secret to understanding how to incorporate social media in the workplace is to treat it like any other tool like email or even the telephone. Just have employees ask themselves, is that gmail chat or Facebook post something that you would spend the time engaging in on the phone while at work.

Ultimately, any policy requires trust in your employees and an expectation that they will act in the best interest of the company. Rather than treating them like children and taking away any access at all, it might show more respect to have a simple conversation with new employees asking them to remember that they are on company time and their use of all tools available to them should reflect that. Empower your employees to police themselves.

So really the question becomes, does social media help me do my job. If I work in an industry where networking is important and helpful for my company then there is probably no more efficient and cost-saving vehicle for connecting with other people than social media. Similarly, if my job is in sales, public relations or marketing, social media may become the most central tool of my trade.

In essence, a little faith in your employees and an honest conversation to ensure that they are working in the best interest of the company to do their jobs can go a long way to ensure empowered employees will utilize social media as an important tool to transcend the confines of their cubical and grow your business beyond your building’s bricks and mortar.


July 18, 2010 at 10:45 AM

I am glad that my company does allow us to use social networking sites, without them the day would drag! I use them for a five minute breather and a catch up with what is going on with everyone. A ban on them would make my working day much less bareable. We can’t abuse the privilege though as both directors are members so can see what we are up to during the day. It’s as Lars says above, it’s having faith and trust in your employees/employers.

Lately we have have been using one in particular to help promote a new website and so far have had reasonable success – it’s only been going a week and we have had hundreds of click through, a few sales and over a dozen new registered users.


July 20, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Nice contributions everyone. I like how we bring different dimensions to the discussion. It’s my opinion that social networking technologies can help bridge the gap between generations of employees. Being innovative with the use of technologies must be managed more efficiently. These technologies offer employees the opportunity to access so much more information through their networks. But, at the same time, I can distract employees from focusing on projects that may be mission-critical and strategic in nature. The questions I would like to offer are – how do we balance this use of technologies (or should we just now allow the technologies at all)? How do you establish trust in the organization so that employees aren’t abusing the opportunity to use this technology? How can these technologies be used uniquely to offer a new competitive advantage? And, what are the implications or added risks if firms prohibit the use of social networking technologies?

Scott Kringen

July 26, 2010 at 12:15 PM

To what extent should firms allow their employees to utilize social networking in the workplace?

Excellent question.

As professor Chun states, “it can expose firms to the risk of compromised productivity”.

In a sense, non-work related social networking is no different than non-work related phone calls, text messaging, e-mailing, internet-surfing, reading, writing, or talking.

The challenge of course is that it’s difficult, time consuming, and often impossible for a manager to accurately determine how much time each employee spends on non-work related activities.

I’ve had great success minimizing the problem with this two-fold solution:

Clearly defined, reasonable, and measureable expectations for each position.

Brief weekly or monthly meetings to accurately gauge employee’s performance vs. performance requirements for the position.


August 2, 2010 at 7:12 AM

Great topic! Having worked in an organisation thats sales orientated, we found that the social chat that social networking sites create has been a positive effect on business.

Our sale agents become creative when networking on the sites and surprisingly, making contacts through discussions they may not have reached previously.

On staff side, less of an impact other than distraction. Because the admin staff are not sales orientated, the time that they spend social networking is really on distraction to work load, and become more non productive, and costly.

So, sales staff are greatly encouraged, it works for them!


August 5, 2010 at 5:09 AM

This is a great topic. I got involved with an academic program within my company several years ago. Working with university students, I was asked to create a FaceBook account. So, I did. It was a good way to communicate with the students both domestically and internationally.

Now, in the past year, I’ve found it as part of my personal social network.

However, my company still uses it for marketing efforts and it seems effective in that manner.

There needs to be a policy for this but ignoring the power and value of this is a fool’s errand.

Magnetic van signs

September 19, 2010 at 2:23 PM

I dont know about any local firm because I’m still a student. But my local college and the school i just graduated from prohibit social networking sites. Okay, granted, that’s probably because the schools involve younger people than those in industry, but the principal is still the same – avoid distractions! social networking is now probably one of the biggest sources of time waste and subconscious distraction even when there’s nothing to do on them.

So..with that respect..i do understand why the “pandora’s box” hasn’t been unleashed yet XD