Why 54% of companies are still blocking social media–and why they should stop


Today is Monday, July 25. It’s the age of the Internet, right? News breaks on Twitter–not network TV–these days. Video chat functionality on Facebook, Google and our phones is making it ultra-easy to chat with friends, in real-time, face-to-face. No matter where you are. The speed of information is moving so fast millennials aren’t even using email anymore to communicate.

Yes, social communication has become a part of the fabric of our everyday lives.

So why is it that 54 percent of companies are still blocking access to social media sites at work?

Certainly that number has come down in recent years, but to think more than half of all companies are still not allowing their staff to access Facebook, YouTube and Twitter during the day. That’s just not jiving, is it?

Now, I’m not here to say all companies should unblock social sites in the workplace. Certainly there are times and places where it makes sense to block. But 54 percent? That just seems too high.

So, I thought I’d make a case to the 54 percent and tell them why they should really re-consider blocking social media sites in the workplace. After all, in many instances, there are some pretty compelling business cases:

Companies are investing in social media as a marketing/communications tool.

94 percent, in fact, according to a Digital Media Wire report. So, given the 54 percent number a lot of those companies are sending mixed messages to their employees, right? In essence they’re saying: “We believe in the power of social media to help us market our products and services, we just don’t trust our employees because we think they’ll waste an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.” Employees aren’t dumb. They see what you’re doing. And they will react and speak out.

More employees are relying on social networks to do their jobs

Professional employees, in particular. In the PR industry, think about your work. How often do you turn to friends/colleagues online for advice? How often do you read blogs to keep up with industry trends? How often do you resource a how-to YouTube video in order to better understand a particular process or tool? Look at the data. 25 percent of employees rely heavily on social networks in the workplace. 1 in 4 staff. And consider, those are most likely (educated guess) your star employees (usually the folks that are the most tech-savvy and with the biggest professional networks). You really want your top performers looking to work for the competition?

Millennials simply won’t accept it

According to a study by American Express, 39 percent of younger workers won’t even consider working for a company that blocks Facebook. It’s no wonder. In most cases, Facebook has become their communication tool of choice among colleagues and friends. Why would they work for a company that’s going to block the tool they WANT to use and ARE using on a daily basis to communicate, share and learn. Keep in mind, these folks are your future VPs. Really want to take the bottom of the barrel from this demographic?

Ever heard of the smart phone?

According to Nielsen, by this Christmas one in every two Americans will own a smart phone (compared to one in 10 during the summer of 2008). So, half your company may own a smart phone by the end of this year. That means they don’t need your network. They’ll be (and ARE) accessing Facebook, blogs, YouTube and whatever other social network they want via their phone right in their pocket. So, the fact that you’re blocking social networks on their computers suddenly seems pretty darn pointless, doesn’t it?

Breaks=More productive employees

OK, I know this is a arguable point, but recent research suggests employees who are given short breaks to surf the Web (or connect with friends on Facebook) are more productive than those who don’t. This is really the elephant in the room for most companies. They’re blocking because they fear their staff will waste too much time on Facebook. But, there are a few things faulty with that logic. 1) That’s a management issue, not a social media/Web issue (that’s been documented before), and 2) Who’s to say Facebook and other social media sites are the only Web sites where your staff can “waste time?” Ever heard of The Onion? US Weekly? Laughing Squid? That list is endless. Just because your blocking “social media” doesn’t mean your staff won’t waste time in some other fashion online.

So, there’s my case. When you consider the key factors, I think it’s pretty compelling. In my mind, the biggest business issue for brands is recruiting and employee retention. People want to work for progressive companies. And, companies those that truly trust their employees. And, as I said before, millennials have even higher standards. You’re blocking Facebook? See ya later. They’re not even looking at your company as a possibility.

What do you think? Are you surprised 54 percent of companies are still blocking social sites? Should that number be lower? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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91 comments on “Why 54% of companies are still blocking social media–and why they should stop

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  6. annatalerico says:

    my new favorite business blog. thanks @jbecher http://t.co/zZa1j96

  7. Ari Herzog says:

    @JGoldsborough I’m unsure if creating a law and spending resources to enforce it is the best method, but what is for sure is you should be proactive and not reactive. If employees want to use Facebook, why should a company say no at the risk of the employees quitting the company? Not to mention, there are proven best practices of Facebook’s use in the enterprise. It’s not just an after-hours party. @kmskala

  8. Coolest says:

    @kmskala Would agree that it totally depends on job duties and the need for access.

  9. kempedmonds says:

    The link you posted is to a blog post from Oct 2010 talking about a study. The most recent data is 20% in the US (Published Sept 2011) and about a third of companies in the UK according to the Financial Times on Sept 6 2011. Things change quickly.

  10. kempedmonds says:

    The link you posted is to a blog post from Oct 2010 talking about a study from Oct 2009. The most recent data is 20% in the US. The study was published in Sept 2011 by ClearSwift and includes a number of countries although the sample size leaves something to be desired.

    About a third of companies in the UK block social networking sites according to the Financial Times on Sept 6 2011. Things change quickly.

  11. flem says:

    Good food for thought here. Thanks for such an informative article, it’s been very useful.

  12. carstory says:

    Great information. I’m not surprised actually regarding with that percentage. Many companies are blocking social sites now a days. I’ll just probably know it.

  13. Lot of sense here, it is all true. most of the companies now a days are blocking social media, i don’t know what’s the exact reason but I’m sure they are not satisfy.

  14. RajSirohi says:

    Even my company has very high feature Sophos Firewall installed that blocks tons of websites in several different categories. I carry a smartphone with me, and just use it for work as well as personal browsing now because often we want to see something on internet for work related stuff, but that is blocked by our d*ckhead desi Gujarati IT guy (I am located in Ahmedabad, India).

    Youtube used to be allowed on our network, however he recently also blocked youtube and often we are unable to play youtube videos, but if we browse youtube over https instead of http, it works fine. That reminds me of Edward Snowden, how he requested websites to start using https for securing internet usage from spying people.

    I am actually thinking of quitting this company myself, due to hell lot of restrictions on every small thing. I can’t even choose to bring my own laptop to my office or I can’t even choose the place where I want to sit in office. Everything has to come from freakin management all the time. That just p*sses me off.