by Kristin Burnham

Social Media Resistance: Sustain or Surrender in 2011?

Jan 06, 2011
Enterprise Applications

It’s no secret that many businesses still resist social media: Some worry about workplace productivity, others cite privacy and security concerns. A few still hold tight to old-school thinking, remaining blind to social media’s benefits. Whichever the reason, more than half of companies still block social networks in the workplace.

It’s the year 2011, by the way, not 1999 (or even 2009, for that matter).

It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Goldman Sachs is among that majority that blocks social sites. The investment firm is notorious for tightening its grip on employee behavior, like last summer when it cracked down on e-mail potty-mouths, or when it revoked commenting privileges.

What might be surprising, though, is earlier this week when Goldman Sachs announced a $450 million investment in the king of sharing and openness: Facebook. Perhaps this partnership could initiate baby steps toward companywide acceptance of social?

It appeared that way yesterday after BusinessWeek reported that Facebook CFO David Ebersman gave a tutorial in how to use the social network to Goldman Sachs’ wealth management department. Hip, hip, horray!, right?

Not exactly.

As it turns out, Goldman Sachs still blocks access to Facebook. If an employee tries to access the site, a browser message appears that says, “Access to this site is logged and audited,” and that Internet use on the premises is only for “legitimate business.” Which is a little ironic coming from a company that just fueled Facebook with millions, dontcha think?

Early last year, published a story highlighting the Obama administration’s successful social media campaign against Goldman Sachs. One excerpt reads:

As Wall Street’s most profitable company in history has learned over the past week, almost every news development today can be made to support advocacy efforts in the online political arena, when leveraged effectively. Goldman’s challenge is to begin to aggressively engage the online community and tell a persuasive story of transparency and accountability via digital and social media. To date, Goldman’s silence in the online space has been deafening–making it all the easier for regulators, legislators and the White House to paint a bull’s eye on its back.

For many companies, that probably would have been a lesson learned. But two years later, Goldman Sachs remains removed from the social space with no official Facebook page or Twitter account.

Analysts predict that more companies will be pressured to embrace social media in 2011 from multiple fronts: sales, marketing, HR and employees. But that pressure is countered by growing concerns that social networks will become the biggest targets for cybercriminals this year.

And so Goldman Sachs, albeit in a unique position, finds itself in a situation that other resistant businesses will encounter this year: succumb to pressure and open up to social media and its risks, or remain in its comfort zone and stymie potential success that other businesses have seen.

Which do you think it—and others—will choose this year?

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Kristin at