According to a recent survey by Gartner and other analysts, the majority of users of social networking sites are motivated mainly by “personal needs and a desire for entertainment, rather than business and practical objectives”. However some have seen the potential of such sites for business.
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“Social networking software holds enormous potential for improving the management of large enterprises,” said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner. “However, work in this area is still immature, and in the meantime, enterprises should be aware of what is happening in the world of consumer social networking and implement appropriate usage policies for employees’ use of services such as Facebook and MySpace on company time.”
Gartner predicts that online social networking will come to be regarded as just the latest expression of a long-standing pattern of human behaviors that involves an increasing range of communications protocols and technologies.
In the US, some companies have been quick to realize the potential to drive sales on sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
According to analysts, The Aberdeen Group, companies are successfully using social media to improve customer satisfaction and retention, and derive actionable marketing insights.
The Aberdeen Group found that “These online communities let customers, prospects, employees and partners connect with each other and share content. At the core of the Awareness solution is an on-demand social media platform that combines the full range of Web 2.0 technologies — blogs, wikis, discussion groups, social networking, podcasts, RSS, tagging, photos, videos, mapping, etc. — with security, control, and content moderation”.
Some larger companies are also using social sites to make fast business decision. Hewlett-Packard, executives for example, log into their individual blogs each morning to join the ongoing online conversation about each of their product lines, immediately responding to customer problems and concerns.
Ernst & Young recruits many of the 3,500 college graduates it hires every year using a career group on Facebook, where it not only posts job information but also answers individual questions from prospective employees.
And according to Reuters, small-business social networking in the US is expected to increase between 20 to 33 per cent this year.