Over the years, I have gained access to Twitter by two different companies that have unanimously blocked Twitter and all social media from their users. Both companies had great reasons for blocking access to Twitter and Facebook, et. al., however, there are ways to gain access to them again if you are willing to put in the work. There are two things that a user can do: (1) Find a way around the work firewall or (2) Find a way through the work firewall as an exception. If you pick the first method (against my recommendation), still attempt at the second method for the benefit of others like you at your company.
First and foremost, I do not recommend using anything to work around the corporate firewalls as this could lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination depending on the company (of which I am not responsible). However, since Twitter switched to OAuth, some of these accounts will need to be setup at home and then used at work since Twitter’s OAuth takes the user to twitter.com to confirm or deny the use of the Twitter Application. For those who don’t know, you can get off your company’s firewall/tunnel and on your own wifi, by editing the connections in Internet Explorer: Tools > Internet Options > Connections tab > click on LAN Settings. Under Proxy server, uncheck “Use a proxy server for your LAN (These settings will not apply to dail-up or VPN connections).” Then you can go to Twitter.com, and setup whatever. If you do not have a laptop, then things like Echofon for Twitter will not be an option.
Second, one of the first places you should try (if you don’t have admin rights) is a site called HootSuite.com (while I don’t necessarily care for their price increase, they do offer a free solution for all users). The second place you should try is Seesmic. Seesmic and HootSuite can be setup at home and used on work computer. If you are blocked there, IT may be blocking a larger category of social media websites. Next, if you have Firefox, then install the add-on Echofon for Twitter. This will install an icon at the bottom right of the browser and will sometimes work. However, it may need OAuth authorization which can be done at home off the firewall.
If you have admin rights on my computer, you should try to install TweetDeck, DestroyTwitter, TwitterLocal, Twitcher, twhirl, Mixero (Windows, Mac, Linux, also iPhone), and TwitBabble (warning about TwitBabble site, I am not liable for the pop-ups, etc from that site), most of which run on Adobe Air (may be able to get IT to install it along with a Flash Player upgrade or an Adobe Shockwave install or a Microsoft Silverlight install). If HootSuite, Seesmic, and TweetDeck are blocked then it becomes a bigger problem. Another lesser-known alternative is SpreadTweet (application, web-based version) which looks like Microsoft Excel. However, it must be setup off the network to because of Twitter’s OAuth. To me, while not the most aesthetic or easy to use, it works.
Other alternatives that I haven’t used or checked include: simplify360, ping.fm, Buzzom, sobees (web, client, mobile), PowerWF (client), Echofon (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Firefox), socialoomph.com (formerly TweetLater.com), Tweetie (Mac), Gwibber (Linux client), Twitterrific (mobile, client), Nambu (Mac), MetroTwit (client), Sociallite (client), Twitter Opera Widget (requires Opera), and Itsy (Mac).
More lesser-preferred methods were places like Twubs.com, Tweetchat.com, or TweetGrid. You will most likely be able to tweet from here but you will have a very difficult time reading others’ tweets. Furthermore, twubs.com is made for hashtag following so if someone only mentions you and doesn’t use the specific hashtag you are using, then you won’t see it until you sign on via Twitter.com, or some other tool apart from work.
The final method that you should resort to was to use my self-hosted WordPress.org blog with the WordPress Dashboard Twitter plugin, while it too must be setup at home, it works at the office. Anyone that has a WordPress self-hosted site, should install and setup this plugin just in case your company decides to ax access to Twitter.
Social Media Team
The second method is the method of choice. It is also the longer, harder road, but it is the right road. Now, if you tweet for social reasons alone, then this method will be of no use for you. However, if you are tweeting for business reasons, then creating a business rationale and exception is the preferred method. There are two ways to do this. First, most companies who are blocking social media are also policing their brand on social media. That’s right, policing from within. So once I found this out, I used this to my advantage. Having already demonstated my social media awareness and knowledge, I quickly became the right pick to “police” social media for my company thus gaining access to use social media. While I reported whatever my boss wanted me to report, I also defended the use of social media within the company. Over time, after educating and educating people again and again to oblivion, I was able to demonstrate the business reasons for the use of Twitter and social media.
Second, companies that are already on Twitter, etc., for customer service, PR, brand communications, etc., are a bit more challenging; however, it can be done. The first thing that you do is find out who the owners of the social media are. They could be sales, marketing, PR, HR, or IT. Then build a relationship with them and build your business rationale for the use of Twitter at work (e.g., community of practice, personal development, etc.) utilizing whatever business policies in your favor while also address concerns being prepared to address a plethora of objections. Above all else, follow whatever protocols, processes, or procedures that are necessary to gain access. You don’t want to be viewed as a renegade or a rouge employee. And finally, whatever you do, don’t ask for blanket access. Only ask for a pilot that will allow you to build your case even further, over time, on work hours.
For example, at my current company, the owners of social media is the PR group. I first met with a representative from PR. Then upon her suggestions, I met with my current supervisor and a manager from employee relations. Then I further built my business rationale (which was already built before I went to see anyone). Then I followed the appropriate processes and protocols to gain access through IT’s security. Everything is by the book.