Posted March 17, 2008

The risks and benefits of social networking as a business tool


As wikis, RSS, blogs and social networks such as Facebook grow in use, can their technologies and popularity be beneficial to businesses, or do they present too much risk? That question was at the heart of a recent symposium hosted by the Fox School’s Institute for Business and Information Technology, “Social Computing and Networking: Business Tool or Consumer Fad?”

At the start of the this highly interactive symposium, the 73 participants — Temple alumni, faculty and students, as well as regional business practitioners — filled out a survey aimed at uncovering how prevalent social networking tools are in the business environment. Participants indicated that while some social networking tools, such as blogs, are universally adopted by people across all industries, others, like the virtual environment Second Life, are not important or useful to them.

According to symposium moderator Munir Mandviwalla, “Social networking is new and relevant for business use because it can enable employees to network with each other and exchange knowledge.”


The panelists discussed the pros and cons of these relatively new media, praising them as connecting people with common interests, and more efficiently helping companies reach out to employees, clients, consumers, contacts and potential employees. On the other hand, they warned, more media channels can lead to loss of confidentiality, information overload, and a company’s inability to control — or perhaps even generate — content for the channels they set up.

The bottom line: People and businesses participating in these social media need to understand and calculate the benefits and risks before engaging them, said Mandviwalla, associate professor and chair of Management Information Systems at Temple. Related research being conducted in the MIS Department includes projects with Lockheed Martin to understand why people participate in such networks and the value of social networking, and another project with GlaxoSmithKline on Second Life.

Social networking
Temple University has established several social networking sites to help connect its community members, including for alumni, friends, students and faculty, and an “MIS Community” (above) for students, faculty, partners and alumni of the Management Information Systems Department, which recently hosted a symposium on social computing and networking.

This symposium, held Jan. 31, was co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin and GlaxoSmithKline, which supplied several of the panelists. To learn more about Temple’s Institute for Business and Information Technology, including upcoming events, visit

— Written by Genevia Sawyer

For the Fox School of Business


How are social networking technologies being used?

According to a survey of symposium attendees:

• Social computing and networking can enable organic and bottom-up innovation (as opposed to the traditional top-down model of organizational hierarchy).

• Blogs and wikis and applications such as Facebook and LinkedIn are the most-used social networking tools.

• Most of the organizations represented have no plans of using virtual worlds, such as Second Life, in the near future.

• Blogs are universally adopted by people across all industries.

• IT-based industries tend to use wikis, RSS, tagging, social networks and media sharing more than non-IT based industries.

• These tools are very beneficial, but only people who claimed more experience with these tools tended to be more cognizant about the risks of these technologies.

• Large organizations are more likely to use these tools for both internal and external use. On the other hand, smaller organizations are more willing to use these for external uses, such as communication with customers.

• Organizations are still not sure how best to manage or regulate these technologies. Companies are also concerned about information leakage and legal liabilities arising from social computing and networking usage.

These results were compiled by Assistant Professor of MIS Sunil Wattal, doctoral student Pradeep Racherla, and Mandviwalla. For more information about this research, contact Sunil Wattal at