Blogging. It sounds like something that only geeks could love. Yet, blogging is now being done by geeks and non-techies alike. This could and should concern you as an employer because blogs have the grave potential to threaten your business as well as your business image and reputation.
Blogs, which is a common term for Internet Web Logs, are being used commonly and frequently by individuals to post information ranging from news and opinions, gossip and photos about businesses. Often, blogs have the air and appearance of professional online journals.
Blogs have become more and more popular because of their simple ease of creation and use. Internet Web Logs have been around for some time. But as is often the case in the world of computers “ease of use “is everything. Anyone at no or little cost can set up and post on Blogs of their choice.
Blogs provide their bloggers audiences as large and diverse as the Internet itself. That is why we are witnessing journalists, political parties, individuals, organizations and even businesses increasingly embrace blogs to communicate their messages to online audiences.
The number of blogs on the Internet ranges widely.
Blogpulse, a blog authority “, indexed the startling count of 30 Million blogs, as of the end of June 2006 while StrokonBlog Research , another blog authority claimed 60 Million blogs counted May 2005.
Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, blogs are appealing to a younger audience. It has been estimated that 60 % of most bloggers are under 19 years of age. It is very safe to say that blogs will become more relevant to businesses as all these younger bloggers come of age and join the work force in the coming years.
Most blogs can be considered quite harmless. In fact the sign of a progressive business is one that embraces blogs and blogging as an effective means to communicate in an interactive innovative manner. As well blogs can be a most useful tool to conduct market research on trends as well as conduct customer research. Remember the rule that 85 % of your business comes from 15 % of your customers. Blogs can be an inexpensive way to target and interrract for that vital 15 % of your customer base.
This makes good sense considering people are reading blogs more and more. Last year the consumer research firm Ipsos-Reid reported that 42 % of the general population gas read a blog at least once. And remember this is a count of the overall general population not those that have computers and general computer skills.
You as an employer however should be concerned about the negative impacts that individuals can mete out on targeted individuals and businesses. That is because some bloggers have used the online platform as effective powerful tools for attacks on businesses and their current or former employers.
Employers should be highly concerned about the blogging activities of their employees. That is because employees, who use blogs can, among other things engage in copyright violations, defamation as well as divulge corporate strategy and trade secrets.
The unbelievable thing about a blog is that once published it remains on the internet until the blog is edited, the whole blog is deleted or the server computer on the other side of the world which is hosting the blog is turned off so to speak.
Being on the internet the blog is both public to anyone anywhere in the world with internet access. Specific information can be easily searched across the internet through the standard search engine tools.
Seemingly innocuous information can be the final link in a competitor’s puzzle or can be used for “social engineering “to trick staff into divulging vital corporate information to outsiders pretending to be staff members. One need not have the keys anymore to the plant just information.
Seemingly harmless information on the blog can even be used to guess passwords. It is amazing the percentage of people who use their address, birthday as well as wife’s, kids or dog’s name for email and security passwords.
Employees who write blogs in the course of their employment activities are easier to manage with company policies and procedures. Employees that write their own personal blogs, outside of their work hours, can raise more challenges for employers.
Here are several steps you as an employer can utilize to protect your business from damaging employee blogs and bloggers.
1) Create a work environment where ideas can be freely exchanged
2) Reference blogging in employee policy and handbooks
3) Insist that employees place disclaimers on their personal blogs
4) Require employees to sign a non-disclosure contract as a standard in employment. And ensure that older employees as well as new hires are required to sign this form.
As part of this policy make it clear that release of confidential corporate information is legal grounds for immediate dismissal from the firm.
5) As part of the firm’s policy manuals and guidelines prohibit employees from publishing defamatory blogs about your business, co-workers or clients.
Blogs are an emerging reality in the workplace. Progressive businesses would be well advised to take note and take steps to protect their vital business, employees and customers as well as their vital image and reputation.
Blogs are a powerful tool in today’s business climate which can be used for good or bad. Remember it can only take one blog entry to destroy your business image or customer base that took 20 years to develop and nature.