Survey: 70 Percent Of CIOs Use Social Networking Tools For Business

The survey found that midsize CIOs still use social media tools more for personal reasons (73.5 percent) than for business (69.9 percent), but respondents also said that social media can help improve business networks and gather product ideas -- that is, once they figure out how to use it.

Scott Lindsey, CIO of Hylant Group, a Toledo, Ohio-based insurance brokerage firm, is trying to figure out how to use social media tools within his organization.

"I have LinkedIn and Facebook accounts," he said. "We're still working on our strategy on a corporate basis. We've introduced it to several people in the organization to get them to embrace it, with mixed success. Some use it to connect with suppliers, clients. Others don't really use it."

As an insurance company, Hylant Group has some liability concerns over not being able to control what information is dispersed publicly, Lindsey said.

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For example, Lindsey asked some employees to remove references to the company on their personal Facebook pages because some comments on politics or other matters could be misconstrued publicly.

"People say stupid things. That's a big concern. If someone says something inflammatory, or if someone gives bad advice, what's our liability to that? We don't want to get put in a bad light if people are out there making comments that aren't representative of the company," Lindsey said.

Hylant Group has a marketing resource look for how people are referencing Hylant Group on the Internet. "That's becoming more of a challenge, with as many different places as you have to [post] it," Lindsey said.

Among the MES attendees, LinkedIn is the most popular social platform with 87 percent of the CIOs using it. In addition, 61 percent of the CIOs use Facebook, 32 percent are Twitterers, 17 percent have a business blog and 13 percent write a personal blog.

"We allow the use of Facebook and Twitter. Our marketing department is trying to determine how we will use it," said James Fielder, vice president of information technology at Farm Credit Services of Illinois, Mahomet, Ill. "We also have developed business blogs that are used by several departments to present pertinent information regarding financial perspectives to our association."

Some respondents also commented that LinkedIn is used for professional reasons, while Facebook is used more for personal reasons, while Twitter can be leveraged to do "business broadcasting for the firm," according to one respondent.

Another respondent not currently using social media said he has yet to see how the investment in resources could be returned. "We notice that social media in the business world is evolving but [we] have yet to really justify its value. We would be interested in using social media as a 'self-service' marketing tool," the CIO said in the survey.

The difficult part is developing a business use for social media, especially in industries that don't rely heavily on outside marketing.

"It's not something that has any value to us. E-mails meet our needs. The majority of our communication is internal, not external," said Michael Pate, director of IT for Complete Production Services, a Houston-based oil field service provider. "If we're sitting at a computer talking, we're not in the field generating revenue."

Gary Allen, CTO at the Amarillo Independent School District in Amarillo, Texas, also is investigating his organization's future with social media, as the number of requests to incorporate it have increased.

"There are some teachers that want to experiment using Twitter and Facebook in an educational environment to connect with other instructors but also to interact with the students," Allen said. "We're in the middle of a debate on how we go about doing that and still comply with the Childhood Protection Act and other professional conduct and ethics [policies]. We're struggling with some of those issues."

Allen noted that the school district gets 15 to 30 cases related to e-mail abuse per year and he feels social media, by its nature, might lend itself to more problems.

"We've decided not to open it up at this time, but we're investigating on how to manage and monitor connections while maintaining security," he said.