Entries from August 2009 ↓

Revitalizing StopBlocking.org

With only so many hours in a day, I have to choose where to commit my energy. As a result, some projects take a back seat. But after pondering two sets of data, I’m recommitting myself to my Stop Blocking initiative.

But it won’t do any good if I do this by myself. I need help to keep the wiki updated.

Bear with me, and I’ll explain all.

First, the data

By themselves, both of these sets of data are intriguing. Juxtaposed, however, they’re startling. One one side, you have organizations warming up to social media, particularly as a channel for marketing. On the flip side, you have a surge in companies that are blocking their own employees’ access to social media.

Add to the mix the fact that internal social media — also known by names like enterprise web 2.0 — is gathering steam, and you’re faced with a genuine conundrum.

Let’s review these stats, starting with business embracing social media. According to Equation Research’s “2009 Marketing Industry Trends Report,” reported by eMarketer, 59% of brand marketers use social media, and the ranks will swell to 82% in the next year. A mere 13% claim they have no plans at all to jump into social media marketing.

This data reinforces the results of other research, like a study from the Association of National Advertisers that shows 66% of marketers have used social media in one form or another this year.

Returning to the Equation Research study, the results indicate that only 7% of companies don’t see social media as a good use of employee time.

Clearly, the companies surveyed by Equation weren’t the same ones analyzed by ScanSafe, which earned a boatload of free publicity when it released a study reporting a 20% increase in the number of companies blocking access to social media in the last six months.

So, companies want to market through social media but they don’t want their employees using it? First, that means employees will have to go home to participate in their own companies’ efforts. And second, if everybody follows suit, the total pool of consumers engaged in those marketing efforts will plummet.

But it gets more interesting when you look at the results of the Nielsen Norman Group‘s recent study, “Enterprise 2.0: Social Software on Intranets: A Report From the Front Lines of Enterprise Social Software Projects.” This in-depth research revealed that social software adopted by companies that produce significant results are nearly always introduced as under-the-radar grass-roots initiatives by front-line employees. That is, once social software efforts prove their worth, the powers that be push their implementation.

Let’s be clear: Employees who are not permitted to innovate with social media will not be able to introduce beneficial tools to the enterprise, ultimately costing these companies in untold ways, from innovation and collaboration to increased market share and profitability.

Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman group nails it:

Social software is a trend that cannot be ignored. It is bringing about fundamental change to the way people expect to communicate with one another. Companies cannot use social tools with their customers and not also allow their employees to utilize them.

Yet, according to the data, that is exactly what’s happening.

So let’s summarize:

  • Companies want to market using social media.
  • Companies rely on employee grassroots efforts to identify social media that will pay off internally.
  • Companies are blocking employee access to social media.

Is it just me or does the math just not add up here?

And now, the call to action

I started Stop Blocking a few years back out of frustration over the knee-jerk reasons company denied employees access to social media. The blog was meant to provide updates on research and news items related to the topic. The wiki was designed to provide an archive of resources people can use to make a case against blocking in their organizations.

There has been plenty of evidence to add to the wiki which I have neglected. For example, there’s the University of Melbourne study proving a 9% productivity increase among workers allowed to use social media at work. Or there’s the BizInfo/Blackline study that revealed 65.3% of business professionals claiming that web 2.0 services help them to achieve business objectives and 78.1% who believe social media increases collaboration among employees.

I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere on this blog and over at StopBlocking.org. I’ve catalogued and attempted to debunk the reasons companies implement blocks. None of them hold water in light of the evidence of the real business benefits that accrue to organizations that prudently allow their employees access to the Net. I could go review all of these, but this post is already running long enough.

I will add the latest studies to the wiki. I will cross-posting this item to the blog. And I am committed to getting back to maintaining the blog. But I need your help.

What can you do?

  • Send me resources — When you find a study or survey that either related to employee use of social media, blocking access, corporate policies or anything else that helps build the body of knowledge, please send it my way.
  • Link to StopBlocking.org — The only way this initiative will build into a movement is if it’s visible.
  • Put the badge on your blog — There are several versions available.
  • Share success stories — Blog about the benefits of access to an open web in the workplace, and let me know so I can link to your posts.
  • Make the case — Use the information at StopBlocking.org to make a solid business case for open access in your organization.