Home ANTHILL TV How can we stop companies banning social media apps at work?

How can we stop companies banning social media apps at work?


Late last week, I posted the title of this article as a Discussion on several LinkedIn Groups including our Anthill Group.

It is a question that has confounded me ever since my brother-in-law admitted that his employer, GE, doesn’t allow employees to watch streaming video at work.

I don’t know about you (dear readers) but, whenever I’m stuck for an answer at work, I either look for an instructional screencast on YouTube, pose my question to fellow Anthilians via IM and Skype, request feedback from LinkedIn Groups or simply blog about it.

For example, the following clip is the story of the Global Credit Crisis visualised.

This single clip did more for my understanding of the factors that brought down financial markets all over the world than 18 months of newspaper articles.

(If you are working for GE, sorry. You’ll just have to continue bluffing your way through cocktail parties.)

I remember similar arguments over Instant Messanger (IM) programs when they were first introduced. But then, suddenly, employers realised that these tools were increasing the efficiency of employers working on joint projects (and cost less than a phone call).

Now, it seems that the ire of productivity professionals has moved to social networking tools.

And why? Because farting CNN reporters are so funny. And sporting injuries are an excellent distraction from hard white-collar email dissemination. And who wouldn’t be seduced by Scarlet takes a tumble? (Go on, admit it. You clicked the link.)

But, of course, social networking tools are useful for so much more.

As mentioned above, I took this discussion to my LinkedIn network (naturally) and here’s what I got back:

Empathy & Support

I understand the frustration, those changes take time, please keep on evangelizing! When email was first invented, it was banished from large companies as a danger for employees’ productivity…
Del Daix, Digital Media – Senior Product Manager
(c/o Digital Media Group)

Strategy & Tips

I put together a process to show how to get social media unblocked at the firewall. It’s on my blog post linked below.



  1. Gather the arguments on why it IS blocked
  2. Brown Bag Lunches: Educate whole-of-company on social media
  3. During the education, poll/team-build social media guidelines for staff addressing issues raised in point 1
  4. Collect the poll/survey results and publish them on the intranet as a “we have agreed on this policy as whole-of-company social media guideline policy”
  5. Promise to punish vigorously 🙂 (Remember the guidelines didn’t come from upper management, they came from the whole organisation… Break the guidelines, betray the Corporate Tribe)
  6. Iteratively educate

I have a list of 40 social media guidelines that companies/govs/orgs around the world have given staff, on my blog (http://laurelpapworth.com/enterprise-list-of-40-social-media-staff-guidelines/) to get them started.

Otherwise, just wait.

I remember working at an agency in 1995 where the director said:

“We will have EMAIL in this organisation OVER MY DEAD BODY”.

RIP Mr Director.

Laurel Papworth, Social Networks Strategist
(c/o Digital Media Group)

Alternative Opinions

Sorry James, Being an iT service provider, we may have something to do with that. Certain websites are blocked at our customers sites to ensure their staff are doing work when they should be. Most people abuse the access and can be found using their, Facebook, myspace, ebay, etc when they should be working. (we don’t block LinkedIn)

There is also the security aspect, these sites can be entry points into a network. Especially with shortened URL’s where a person doesn’t even know what website they are about to open. e.g. http://tiny.cc/rNKgo – which is my website.

Not all companies see the benefit of networking.

One option is to allow access during the lunch hour, but have a web filtering product that can then block problem sites. The best of both worlds. Just my 5 cents worth.

David Vidos, MD – NOVA iT GROUP, your trusted iT Partner
(c/o Anthill Online)

Healthy Cynicism

Why do you want to pitch to people who don’t understand or use new media? 😀

Darryl Greensill, Owner, Stewarts Trophies and Engraving
(c/o Australian Business Owners and Entrepreneurs)

Real Anecdotes

Heh. Yeah, it’s pretty funny. It’s an internal issue for companies too. I’m doing a small site for a sunglasses brand that’s part of a large company. The marketing person is totally focused on running campaigns that utilise Facebook, Twitter etc. and she can’t see any of those sites when she’s at work 🙂

On the other hand, I’m doing a contract at a large Sydney agency who are pretty clued in. Everybody there seems to spend a fair chunk of their day tweeting and they envisage doing fewer websites than social network app. type things in the future.

These companies will just naturally stop blocking social networking sites when they realise that they’re cutting themselves off from a profitable channel. It will take some of them a while to get it, no doubt.

Kynan Hughes, Technical Lead
(c/o AIMIA)

And a Reality Check

The answer is very simple: by proving social media apps have a role in business.

The problem you confront, however, is that not all social media apps DO have a role in business (explain, for example, the business benefits of Mafia War).

So, IMHO, you won’t be able to ‘stop companies banning social media apps’, because many apps don’t have a role to play in the business context.

To turn the mirror inwards: Why did you decide that a social app was the best conduit for your advertising promotions?

Mark Neely, Head of Strategy at Hyro
(c/o AIMIA)

I can’t imagine any operations manual or training seminar answering my question so succinctly in less than 45 minutes. Now that’s efficiency!