This week brought more news to make American bosses suspiciously eye their employees through the venetian blinds: social media use on workplace computers increased a remarkable 300% between mid-2010 and mid- 2011, according to Palo Alto Networks, a network security company.
Palo Alto Networks measured social media usage by surveying raw application traffic from over 1,600 enterprises for the period between April and November in 2010 and 2011. Their definition of social media activity includes all types of social network and browser-based file-sharing on corporate networks, covering content posting, social applications, and the like.
The stats are pretty impressive. Social networking’s overall bandwidth consumption -- including Facebook Apps, Social Plugins, and posting -- jumped from 5% of total bandwidth in October 2010 to 25% in December 2011. Twitter alone saw at-work browsing increase 700%. In technical parlance, this is “a lot.”
File-sharing is another popular social pastime, with file-sharing sites appearing on the networks of 92% of the organizations surveyed by Palo Alto Networks -- with an average of 13 different browser-based file-sharing variants in use at each organization.
While companies are naturally concerned about the security risks posed by social media use in the workplace, most would be well-advised to steer clear of draconian counter-measures, as it is increasingly viewed as a lifestyle issue by younger workers. In November of last year I wrote about a report from Cisco Systems, “Connected World Technology Report,” based on a global survey of 1,441 college students and 1,412 employees, ages 18-29, in 14 countries worldwide, which found 33% of college students and young adult workers would place greater value on social media access, “device flexibility,” and the ability to work from locations outside the office than salary when considering a job offer. Indeed, 40% of college students and 45% of young employees said they would be willing to accept a lower-paying job if it meant greater freedom in these areas. And a whopping 56% of college students said they would either not take a job at a company which banned social media access, or take the job but find a way to get around the ban.