54 Percent of CIOs ban Social Media At Work

social media banAn interesting new study shows that social media still can’t get no respect in the workplace. According to a study by Robert Half Technologies, 54 percent of CIOs prohibit any social media use in the office. That’s a serious number.

Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project and full-time basis, conducted phone surveys of more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States who employ at least 100 employees. CIOs were asked one question:

Which of the following most closely describes your company’s policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, while at work?

Their responses:

Prohibited completely: 54%
Permitted for business purposes only: 19%
Permitted for limited personal use: 16%
Permitted for any type of personal use: 10%
Don’t know/no answer: 1%

I have to admit, in the age of Zappos, Comcast and Dell, I was a bit surprised to learn that more than half of CIOs have banned social media inhouse. Executive Director of Robert Half Technology Dave Willmer noted that the reason for the ban may be due to social media’s tendency to “divert employees’ attention” away from pressing work priorities in favor of communicating with friends. He’s right. It probably does to some degree. But it can also be an incredible customer retention and sales tool. And frankly, the folks misusing social media are probably the same ones checking email all day.  If that’s the reason you’re shying away from social media, you’re not competing in today’s world.

Something that also caught my eye was the division between using social media for business use vs using it for personal use. Because they’re pretty much the same thing. The goal behind social media is to make your business personal. And if you don’t understand that, you’re going about it the wrong way.

This sentiment was also noted in a post by Heidi Miller where she shows how social media isn’t about the companies. It’s about the people behind them. Comcast isn’t on Twitter. Frank Eliason is. All the Dell representatives you meet have actual names and faces. We get the tidbits of their lives right along with the company agenda. That’s what people fall in love with. It’s the people behind these companies that make them interesting and make customers engaged and want to do business with them. By trying to separate business from personal, you lose a lot of that sentiment. You take the heart out of it.

I think in the next few years, we’re going to see social media being more and more accepted into the workplace. Truth is, there’s no greater customer relations tool out there.

The survey also offered some tips for protecting your professional reputation while on social media, including:

  • Know what’s allowed
  • Use caution
  • Keep it professional
  • Stay positive
  • Polish your image
  • Monitor yourself

I think it’s about talking to employees, instilling responsibility in their words and tweets, educating them on how to use social media correctly, but then also giving them room to be human. No one is positive all the time. No one is that polished. I don’t think employers should be leashing every single one of their employees into the world of social media, but there is a solid place for it and simply banning it from the workplace is not the way to go about it. Educate; don’t lag behind.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

21 Reactions
  1. Here’s where I think small businesses have an advantage over larger companies.

    Usually large corporations are the ones that ban social media sites in the workplace. Small businesses less so.

    That means that small businesses are better able to use social media to reach customers. In large corporations only a few people are granted special privileges to social media sites. So it’s very hard for large businesses to truly leverage social media because their employees are not deeply integrated into the processes.

  2. What a great opportunity! It is time to teach the majority of CIOs about social media… 😉 Who is on the next level? Do they have rules against water cooler conversations during the lunch / coffee break? How do they “prevent” that their customers are talking to other people?

  3. I can understand why employers would be afraid that it’s distracting employees from their jobs. However, they’re taking away the ability for the employees to promote the business itself. I think a better solution would be for the employer to designate specific people and make social media part of their job duties. It’s easier to monitor and make sure they aren’t abusing it.

  4. This is really a trust issue. Big companies don’t trust their employees to use social media as a tool instead of a distraction. If this is the case you need to A)start trusting the people you have or B)hire different people that you can trust.

  5. Robert: “Amen” to that! Talking about trust, have you read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith?

  6. Funny how horribly written this article is. And even funnier yet is the fact of how many people are blindly agreeing with the author of it and what attention it’s getting.

    It’s pretty obvious this article was written by someone who has never managed employees, owned their own company, or has any means that would give them insight into why CIO’s block Social Media. I’d actually encourage more and more to block it.

    And yes, while a handful of companies have utilized Social Media to their advantage, it’s not applicable to every company…much less every employee of that company.

    I’ve personally used very well Social Media. But I’m first and foremost a business person. This isn’t written from the standpoint of business and really should be deleted. It’s this sort of crap that causes companies more harm than good.

    I’ll challenge anyone to come up with a well thought out reason why CIO’s should say yes to allowing social media to be open to all employees in the workplace.


  7. This really make sense as there certainly will be an opportunity for small business.
    But i believe it’s people with an entrepreneurial mindset can see the benefits out layed here.
    This is really interesting

  8. As social media is still quite new to many companies the stats are not really surprising. It will be interesting to compare the results in a year’s time.

  9. Great Info! Thanks for the post!

  10. Sorry, I forgot to add one thing in my comment. From what I can see the survey only tells us what the policy is, not the reasons behind the policy.

    It is the reasons that provides the insights. It might be due to trust or it could because of security concerns or productivity issues etc. There could be many reasons but unless we know the detail we are assuming.

  11. Lisa–

    I agree! I remember when email first came about, and companies were jumping to ban it as well or to restrict it to “business use only.” Same thing with the telephone, fax and every other tool that has come along. Any communication tool can be abused, but it can also be used (with guidelines) to affect business and customer relations in a positive way as well.

    I think your prediction is right: we will be seeing nimble small businesses adopt social media strategies, and, slowly, we’ll see larger corporations seeing the value as well.

  12. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for the information in this post.
    It is not surprising to me given I worked as a Corporate CFO for many years before starting my own small business about ten years ago. The role of CIO seems to be to control what people can see and do within a major computer system and this is so contrary to the culture behind social media that frankly I believe many CIO’s would be tearing their hair out because they can’t control what’s going on. The only solution then is to ban it which is a pity because they’re isolating themselves from the real heart beat of an organisation which comes through in the thoughts of its employees