Many of the articles I read about the impact of social media to businesses refer to the positive ones. Some skeptics, critics, and cynics express their concern regarding the impact of social media. The recent press release by WatchGuard Technologies explains that the concerns was no joke and can seriously hurt your small business.
Social media applications, despite being useful and entertaining (and lucrative,) can pose serious threats to your small business’ network security, sensitive data, and employee productivity.
What kind of social media negative impacts to your small business we are talking about?
Compromised network security
According to WatchGuard, social media can send your small business malware (malicious software) that can disrupt your small business operations.
Ranging from annoying ads popping up on your office’s PCs and laptops to destructive malware that can paralyse your entire small business IT, malware is a huge problem that will cost you both productivity and money.
Loss of sensitive data
Accidental or not, sensitive data can somehow leak and buzzed around by social media. For example, a disgruntled employee or ex-employee can bring the whole business down by leaking your small business private data to the public via his/her social media accounts, who will generously spread the words around the web (he/she tells a friend, the friend tell his/her friends, and so on.)
What’s worse, most likely, your competitors can now access your leaked sensitive data, too, easily – thanks to social media.
Loss of employee productivity
Let’s admit it – how many hours per day you spend on non-work-related social media activities while you are on office? According to WatchGuard, the US loses billions of dollars annually due to lowered productivity, as a result of doing non-work-related, time wasting activities mostly on social media sites.
It’s easy to sway away from collaboration and communication on projects to talking about the trip you are going to go next weekend; not mentioning trying a new game on Facebook that your colleague recommends. How about nagging about work with your friends working in different companies?
The most risky social media applications
According to WatchGuard, here are some of the most risky social media sites that can lose your small business resources (I pick the top 4 because it’s relevant to small business):
Facebook is the most dangerous of all, simply due to its popularity. With more than 500 million users, Facebook can do your business good… and bad. With Facebook’s open App API, hackers can now easily embed malicious codes into what seemingly interesting and new Facebook application.
The 140 character limit can help malicious software to travel fast via Twitter. With such limit, Twitter users are used to share content via a shortened link (i.e. http://interestingsite.com/this-is-a-very-long-page-title.html can be shortened into http://bit.ly/xyzabc.) The shortened link hides what’s inside – a character allowing the bad guys to lead unsuspecting users to click the link and be brought into a scam site or any other dangerous site and software.
YouTube is THE video site. I even watch business news on YouTube, not on CNN and such. That being said, the popularity can help hackers to trick user, ranging from fake YouTube pages to leaving comments on popular videos containing links to an attack URL.
LinkedIn can help you build your personal and business brands. Unfortunately, being focused as business purposes means that it is a fertile ground for hackers. Your sensitive business data can travel fast on LinkedIn due to the nature of it, rendering it as a more dangerous threat to small businesses than Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Perhaps a bit pessimistic, but yes – the social media’s positive and negative impacts on your business is inevitable.
You can slow hackers down, but they are smart people – there always be loopholes to capitalise, and with social media, the loopholes look like gaping holes. You can implement network security measures (firewalls, etc.) but they present as prevention; as something that will eliminate smaller threats. In order to malware-proof your small business IT systems, you need continual upkeep by IT security professionals, either in-house or outsourced.
Particularly on productivity issues, you can encourage your employee not to use social media sites (excessively) during office hours, but it’s probably won’t do your business good. You could try to block social media sites from your office’s PCs and laptops, but there are proxies – software that can unblock those sites easily.
All in all, there is not a single effective way to eliminate the negative side of social media. The best way is to educate your employees regarding the potential problems social media sites can pose to your business, while persuading them not to mingle too much with their social media accounts.
Any thought or tips? Please share yours by commenting on this article.
Social media is powerful – for both the good and the bad