Firms not realising business potential of social networking

Leading analyst belives that social networking will become increasingly important to the competitiveness of large enterprises

The majority of users of social networking Web sites are motivated mainly by personal needs and a desire for entertainment, rather than business and practical objectives, according to a recent survey by Gartner.

The market analyst found that even though their business potential remains largely untapped, social networking Web sites will become increasingly important to the competitiveness of large enterprises in the future.

“Social networking software holds enormous potential for improving the management of large enterprises,” explained 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.”

Respondents were asked to rate how important social networking was for them as a reason for using the Internet along with 14 other major Internet applications. Despite the hype surrounding social networking, Internet users generally did not place a high level of importance on social network sites, compared with other mainstream Internet applications such as e-mail and search.

Gartner predicts that online social networking will come to be regarded as just the latest expression of a long-standing pattern of human behaviours that involves an increasing range of communications protocols and technologies.

“Social networking is arguably as old as humanity, not something new that has been invented for so-called ‘digital natives’, said Julia Lin, project manager of research data and analytics at Gartner. “However, social networking has found new forms of expression on the Internet which has helped to reshape the purpose and protocols of social networking in the online world and beyond. How to apply this in a corporate environment will be the next major challenge.”

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