It would appear that social networking is here to stay, according to the results of a study into what business men and women really think about the phenomenon.
The study was conducted by Pilotmax and The Counsel House and set out to explore business attitudes towards social networking in a pilot study.
The majority business men and women (83%) believe that social networking is here to stay compared to only 9% who think it is just a "flash in the pan" indulged by the under 30s.
Business opinion is more divided on the value of ‘tweeting’. Asked to choose between two opposing descriptions of tweeting, nearly a third of company executives (31%) agreed with one commentator’s view that it is a ‘fun and powerful communication medium’ whilst nearly half (44%) agreed with another’s description that it can be a ‘moronic’ form of communication. A quarter (25%) had no opinion either way.
Other key findings of the study are:
* Nearly three-quarters (71%) say that blogging provides an effective new medium to communicate with a wider audience whilst less than one in five (16%) say that it is simply shouting into the ether.
* Just over half the respondents polled (51%) think that publishing a profile on social networking sites can help develop new contacts and win new business whilst less than a quarter (23%) say that it is a waste of time in this respect.
* Facebook was both the most widely used and highly rated of the six sites listed in the survey. It is used by 72 per cent of the respondents in the survey and is rated, on average, 2.86 on a 1-5 scale. The next most popular and highly rated site is Linkedin, used by 59 per cent of respondents and rated 2.03, and then Twitter, used by 46 per cent and rated 1.3 a 1-5 scale.
The report also highlights a number of growing conventions among social networkers and advises business men and women new to the medium to be aware of its emerging etiquette. For example, it advises users to be aware of a number of potential social networking gaffes including:
* Hovering: the report advises bosses not to look into the social networking activity of subordinates and juniors at work. It suggests that a boss should wait to be invited onto a social networking site as they might find that these sites are already being used as a forum for complaining about work and senior managers. To avoid embarrassment, bosses should always wait to be invited to join social networks rather than insist on it.
* Overfriending. This, the report says, is the cardinal sin of social networking. It involves inviting every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally who you have ever met in your life to become your friend just so that you can boast about the number of friends you have on your homepage. Likewise, it says, confronting people who either don’t want to become friends or who do not respond to requests to become friends, is considered to be particularly poor form.
* Career–risking: Business men and women should also be wary of putting anything up on a social networking site that could harm career prospects. There are numerous recent examples of this happening. Most notably, a number of cabin crew of a major airline lost their jobs after posting inappropriate jokes about their employer on Facebook. The jokes made references to the airline passengers as ‘chavs’ and wrongly implied some of the airline’s planes were infested with cockroaches.
Robin Swinbank, managing partner at The Counsel House, says: “Love or loathe social networking, the business community has to face the reality that it is here to stay and address this reality in all their communications.”
Jane Herbert, MD of Pilotmax, says: “Social networking has exploded in the past few years and there’s no doubt it is very powerful. But whether organisations engage with it or not – and there’s no doubt not every platform is going to be of value to every organisation – the one thing everyone absolutely must do is monitor it. Organisations have to know what the world is saying about them – especially if it’s bad – if they are going to manage their reputations effectively.”