I predict the rise of social infrastructure management

Despite the social media brouhaha over Mitt Romney firing Big Bird during last night's presidential debate, something more indicative of the downside to social media happened. KitchenAid posted a poorly timed joke about Obama's deceased grandmother, which was promptly retweeted before the company could delete it.

Despite the social media brouhaha over Mitt Romney firing Big Bird during last night's presidential debate, something more indicative of the downside to social media happened. KitchenAid posted a poorly timed joke about Obama's deceased grandmother, which was promptly retweeted before the company could delete it. Obviously, someone was getting fired this morning. 

Stories like this pop up time and time again and point to one of the central problems with social media: it's become a central communication tool at work, yet there is a complete lack of governance surrounding it. Social isn't going away in enterprises. That we can all agree on. The question for organizations and IT is whether or not they are going to let social tools be used in an unfettered and unsupported environment.

If so, companies will have to be prepared for most instances like KitchenAid, where an employee forgot to toggle between their personal and work account on TweetDeck causing damage to the company's reputation. 

At some point during next year, you'll be besieged from the trend of vendors promoting social infrastructure management. Essentially, companies will be pushing hard for IT departments to get a handle over their social media sprawl. Is that a problem that needs to solved? Like a lot of problems and solutions in IT, it depends on whom you talk to. But, it's clear that employees are using personal Facebook and Twitter accounts at work to communicate both internally and externally, thus blurring the lines of tools that are officially supported by the organizations they work for. 

Why the lack of tools?

Currently, there are few tools that deal with this problem that I'm aware of. If you know of any, post it in the comments below. For now, the one company that is attempting to tackle this issue for IT is Social iQ Networks, which provides auditing, security, policy, benchmarking, and more. 

From the demo the company gave me and from talking with a few IT guys using the product, it seems the best features of Social iQ are the audit and policy functions. It's all cloud-based (available via subscription model), so once you log in to the dashboard you can run the account finder, which will track all the various social media accounts loosely connected to your company. It's not fool-proof as it is difficult to detect personal accounts being used in a professional manner. However, it does provide a great overview of what's out there and is a necessary first-step to applying security and policy around various accounts. 

In the case of Kitchenaid, Social iQ would have prevented that headache by letting them know who had admin rights to its Twitter account, making sure publishing only happened through approved Twitter clients and not off-the-cuff Tweets via a mobile phone. If a errant tweet did get sent, the suite of tools would flag that content through pre-set policies related to politics, for example, and automatically remove it before it went viral.

Social iQ might not be for every organization. And, it might be solving a problem that is currently not on a lot of radars -- especially for IT that has bigger concerns day to day. But, as the importance of social tools grow in enterprises, the need to govern and support those tools also grows because it becomes yet another attack vector. I can easily imagine this market sprouting lots of vendors and a mass consolidation happen in early 2014. But for now, to my knowledge, Social iQ is the only one out there and they've got a pretty comprehensive solution for dealing with social media sprawl and governance. 

Don't be surprised if this becomes a larger vendor trend in 2013. And remember, you read it here first. If not, we'll just forget all about my silly prediction.

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