How To Monitor Your Employees' Facebook Use

Want to spy on your employees and monitor how much time they’re spending on Facebook? Social Sentry is a new solution to help you accomplish just that. This Saas (Software as a Service), no-install web-based tool monitors employees’ conversations on a number of social networks including Facebook. Social Sentry supposedly works even if employees use alias profiles.

The fact is, people say all kinds of stupid things in real life, both at work and elsewhere. Social media just makes it easier to spread such conversations, and there’s no shortage of stories of people being fired over their indiscretions. One European City Council member was even voted off for continuing to play FarmVille, despite warnings. While the latter might not be harmful to an organization’s brand or financial state, conversations that reveal too much could be harmful. People are losing their jobs or being suspended, either because of photos or conversations posted to Facebook. If employees start to reveal sensitive information, then there’s the potential for real damage, not to mention sparking issues of compliance for publicly-owned companies.

Corporate protection from social media is what Teneros‘ Social Sentry is offering. According to the list of features, Social Sentry can monitor activity on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks from any device including mobile. Social Sentry apparently only monitors information that you’ve made public. So why, then, would you pay for something you can do for free? What Teneros offers as well is support for filtering rules (for automatic notification and alerts), real-time tracking, reporting and analytics, and easy deployment that is accessible from a web browser. The data sheet for Social Sentry (PDF, 2 pgs — which you’re supposed to register for but can access without) goes into a bit more detail about business uses of the monitoring tool but doesn’t talk much about the technical aspects.

There’s no indication of Social Sentry’s price, though I’m guessing Teneros charges a monthly subscription fee, and there might be need for training, consults, and/or support, which adds to the cost. If you don’t have the budget for social media monitoring tools, or cannot get the approval, you can do it at little or no cost — aside from the personnel and work time necessary. Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Google Alerts — Set up alerts for each employee’s name. These alerts end up sent to an email account, though there are supposedly ways to convert the results into a web (RSS) feed if you’re using a GMail account. In this case, the alerts feed could be sent to a Yahoo Pipes pipe (see #3 below). Note that Google Alerts searches fairly comprehensively on any pages that Google Search indexes. That means you can also check public Twitter status updates, blogs, and elsewhere. Just not, if employees have fairly common names, you may get a lot of “false” results.
  2. Facebook Search — Facebook’s own search feature has the advantage over Google Alerts of narrowing down the search results. If you have too many employees, considering creating a Facebook (or other) application that searches for publicly posted status updates, and use employee names as keywords. You can do something similar for Twitter conversations (and even use the same Facebook application interface to do it with).
  3. Yahoo Pipes – This is a visually-based web tool that lets you mashup multiple web feeds and filter them. Convert the above search results into web feeds, then fine tune the filtering rules in Yahoo Pipes, to narrow down the search results.

The above are just a few options for self-run monitoring. As for implementing “spying” procedures on employee use of social media, you could assign the work to someone in the HR or Legal departments, or possibly to an intern.

Do you run a business where employees use social media? Is this by permission? Have you been concerned about what your employees might be saying on Facebook or other social media? What have you done about your concerns? Or are you an employee who loves social media and feels that you should not be monitored? Let us know in the comments.

[Other sources: Sync Daily]

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