Entries from June 2010 ↓

The futility of blocking social media

Tuesday at Gartner’s Security and Risk Management Summit, research director Andrew Walls told attendees that although infosec pros may worry that social networking will lead to uncontrolled malware outbreaks, phishing, breaches of confidentiality and trade secrets, and even damage to the corporate reputation, trying to take control or even block its use is akin to monitoring employees’ home phone calls and rifling through their postal mail.

“All this message traffic is not in your infrastructure,” Walls said. “It all takes place out there in the cloud,” plus it can be accessed from anywhere, and users’ privacy settings can make monitoring nearly impossible. “At the root of it is staff productivity, and security isn’t responsible for monitoring and managing the productivity of the organization.”

Some believe social media represents a growing platform for malware distribution, but Walls countered that argument, noting that antimalware vendors he’s spoken with say social networks are being victimized by the same malware plaguing email and websites. “So if I’m going to block social media on the basis of malware distribution,” Walls asked hypothetically, “why not block email?”


The article goes on at some length to chronicle Walls’ arguments against blocking social media in the workplace, even making a vital point that has been at the heart of my argument: Organizations will, he said, come to realize the value of hiring someone who possesses a vast social network. “The most valuable people,” he told the audience, “are going to be the ones who demand social media the most.”

The entire post is well worth your time particularly if you’re trying to make the case against blocking in your organization.

Recruiting scheme has employees add jobs widgets to Facebook profiles

Despite the fact that most companies still block access, and you still routinely read about business leaders who insist that lost productivity is the only conceivable result of employees spending work time on social activities, it is time to move beyond the arguments against blocking. There are eight distinct ways organizations can benefit from their employees’ social connections if only they will develop models and processes to support the extraction of that value.

Recruiting is one of those categories. According to a June 22 article appearing on recruiting site ere.net, several organizations are already figuring out that employees’ networks can prove far richer sources of referrals than traditional recruiting channels.

Article author Todd Raphael lists several companies that have turned to employees’ social networks to identify top-shelf candidates. While my thinking on recruiting has been focused on querying employees about whom they know based on their involvement in online peer groups, Raphael points to the development of widgets employees add to their Facebook pages. The widgets contain lists of open jobs. The vacant positions are seen by employees’ friends visiting their pages. In most cases, if an employees’ Facebook friend applies for and gets the job, the employee earns a referral fee.

The idea of paying an employee for a referral is hardly new, but the analog version of the concept required an employee to tell someone, one-on-one, about the job. That process mostly limited employees to sharing the information with people they knew well and with whom they interacted regularly. A widget on an employee’s Facebook pages exposes the job to those connections with whom employees don’t have strong relationships, expanding the reach of the information to those with whom the employee has weak ties.

Among the examples…

  • Staff at Virginia Mason Medical Center can add a widget to their pages that lists jobs like a director of nursing informatics and a range of IT jobs. Developed by recruiting firm Bernard Hodes, the widget has found its way onto a few employees’ pages. Once the Seattle-based organization formalizes a social media policy, it will roll the program out to all employees.
  • Some Enterprise Rent-A-Car employees have already received referral payments for jobs filled based on the widgets they added to their Facebook pages.
  • Employees from Hyatt will also have the opportunity to list open jobs on their Facebook pages and distribute the information to their friends.
  • Using a utility from a company called Referrio, Cisco Systems listed 11 jobs that would each pay $2,500 for the employee who referred a candidate sourced through his or her social networks.

Recruiting agencies — whose business models are threatened as employee networks become better sources of candidates — are shoring up their value by developing the products and services to support employee social network referrals. There’s Hodes, noted above. And a company called Select Minds is developing a service that will notify targeted employees by email of open jobs. For example, writes Raphael:

Let’s say hypothetically we’re talking about a software job at Nationwide, and that the job is in Dayton, Ohio. An automated email about the job opening might go out to 1) Nationwide employees in any region who are in IT jobs, and 2) all Nationwide employees in Dayton. The SelectMinds email allows employees to either email selected contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to tell them about the job, or update their LinkedIn and Facebook statuses (and soon Twitter, just not on the demo I saw) with info on the job. The chain of link-forwarding gets tracked as it moves around online, and the employee either gets the whole referral kitty, or can share part of it with a second person, depending on how the company sets it all up.

The employee who’s doing the referring can tell their company, via a short form, how well they know their friend, and what they think of them. The referring employee also gets emails notifying them if their contact has expressed interest in the job.

Meanwhile, recruiters view a dashboard listing how many times a job was referred, and how many applications came in for it. A recruiter can drill down and see who’s referring who.

Needless to say, the notion that companies will turn to their employees to help fill important jobs — but expect them to do it only from home — is absurd. In order for employees to help the company recruit needed talent, companies will increasingly turn to their employees’ social networks, which had better be wide open from work if companies are going to derive the greatest possible value from the effort.