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As social media expands, beware of social networking risks

Social media use by businesses and their employees is on the rise, and with good reason — social networking tools can easily help companies reach millions of new customers. New information, however, suggests that companies are also beginning to acknowledge social networking security risks.

Last week, Peak Advisor Alliance announced survey results that found respondents’ biggest challenge is differentiating and marketing to generate new business — but adhering to social media compliance was deemed “too risky” by over half of respondents.

This week, Regus released a survey showing a rise in U.S. companies using social networks to win new business. According to the survey, 43% of firms are successfully using social networking to win new customers, an 8% increase from the 2010 survey. Fifty percent of businesses in the U.S. use social media to connect with customers, and the survey found a 7% global increase in the proportion of businesses successfully recruiting new customers through social networks.

And the social networking security risks do not end with business-related social media. Last month, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and its affiliated Health Care Compliance Association released findings from a survey among compliance and ethics professionals. The survey found 42% of respondents reported that their organizations have had to discipline an employee for behavior on social networking sites, up from 24% that reported the same in 2009. At the same time, only about one-third of survey respondents report that their organizations have adopted policies specifically addressing the use of social media sites outside of work.

All this comes as the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report June 8 that proposes “voluntary codes of conduct” to strengthen the cybersecurity of “companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business.” The report notes that “cyberattacks on Internet commerce, vital business sectors and government agencies have grown exponentially,” and addressing these issues in a way that “protects the tremendous economic and social value of the Internet, without stifling innovation, requires a fresh look at Internet policy.”

The Internet’s vulnerability to online activity attacks, including social media use, is mentioned several times in the Commerce Department report.

With the attention social network security risks are getting, it is very possible more attention will be paid by legislators, and social media compliance rules for business could follow. In the coming weeks, will be examining social networking security risks and social media compliance. Check back for information on what you need to wary of when using this lucrative – but risky – innovation.

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