Social Media Goes Inside the Firewall

tighed    October 6, 2014

Organization:  TD Bank

Industry:  Retail Banking (Canada)

Web References:

What happens when the behaviours and technologies of the social web start to permeate the insides of our organizations? In today’s culture there is no longer a clear line between using the social web for work and non-work activities.  People are using social media tools 24/7.  Have work places kept pace with how their employees are communicating and connecting?  Have they embraced the ways employees want to share information, collaborate and influence others?  Today, employees are less defined by their workspaces whether they are glass and steel workspaces or on-line workspaces.  Enterprise leaders who value productivity and engagement will have to embrace and capitalize on how employees want to work and communicate.  They need to look beyond traditional forms of communication to find new ways to reach employees and foster engagement.  They have to bring what has been kept outside the firewall, in.


When the World Wide Web first seeped into the workplace, organizations feared for employee productivity.  Websites were blocked.  Internet and email policies were issued.  Firewalls were erected. Employees persisted.  They wanted input and opinions, they trusted blogs and used their social networks to interact with and make sense of the world.  Given the pervasiveness of social media in the lives of employees, more and more companies are recognizing the value of these tools and are using them to enhance corporate strategies through employee engagement. Whether you call it social business, social media or the social web, bringing it inside the firewall will create some of the biggest opportunities for organizations, and, some of the biggest challenges.



A case in point:  TD Bank has started to inch cautiously towards adopting social media.  They wanted something inside the organization that could provide the capabilities that social media brings – the capability to find experts within the organization, to connect, and to collaborate much more effectively than ever before.  Operating in a highly regulated industry, the TD Bank had to acknowledge that there could be limitations on how they could leverage social media to communicate with their employees and customers.  “And we needed something that was going to allow us to do that within the firewall.” says Wendy Arnott, vice-president of social media and digital communications at TD.  In order to reconcile the open and transparent philosophy of social media with the stringent requirements of Canadian banking laws, TD concluded that traditional social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter were not a good fit.  Instead, it decided on a middle ground.  TD implemented IBM Connections, an enterprise social software application which provides social a networking platform for businesses to bring people together through online tools. Those tools include enterprise forums, blogs, wikis and communities such as LinkedIn and Facebook communities.  The new platform represents a dynamic repository of knowledge and collaboration.   TD Bank received the support of seven times the expected number of employees for the new platform.  Jim Murphy, research director in Gartner Inc.’s Web and Cloud Group, says that TD Bank “actually represents one of the more daring financial institutions in the global arena”.



Lessons for Others

It is clear that social networking is radically influencing the way organizations connect, communicate, engage employees, and accomplish their business goals. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and there are many questions still to be answered.   It is difficult to quantify the relationship between workplace social media and work performance or calculate the ROI of workplace social media to the organization.  For many organizations, the road to becoming a ‘social business’ will take years.  However the journey is seen as a necessary one in order to ensure success, to grow, to evolve.


Submitted by:  Denise Tighe, University of Waterloo, Social Media for Business Performance.

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