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Corporate Use of Social Networking Is Still an Executive Concern

Senior U.S. marketing, management and HR executives are concerned about the risks of increased use of social networks within their companies, a new study shows.

According to the study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law,51% of executives surveyed say they fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49% say use of social media could damage a company's reputation.

Despite these apprehensions, the study indicates, social networking is being accepted as a key communications strategy. According to survey results:

* 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients.
* 81% agree it can build brand reputation.
* 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment.
* 64% see it as a customer service tool.
* 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale.

The most popular vehicles being used include:

Facebook (80%)
Twitter (66%)
YouTube (55%)
LinkedIn (49%)
Blogs (43%)

Much of senior management's direct experience with social media appears to be reactive rather than proactive, the report concludes. Seventy-two percent of executives say that they, personally, visit social media sites at least weekly:

* 52% to read what customers may be saying about their company
* 47% to routinely monitor a competitors' use of social networking
* 36% to see what their employees are sharing
* 25% check the background of a prospective employee

The national survey, which assessed social-media workplace trends and adoption of policies governing social media, found that fewer than one in three respondents say their organization has a policy in place to govern social-media use, and only 10% of companies have conducted employee training on it.

Those surveyed who aren't using social media on a corporate basis say nonimplementation is primarily because of concern about confidentiality or security issues (40%), employee productivity (37%) or simply not knowing enough about it (51%).

This may be why many organizations continue to prohibit workplace access to social-networking sites. The study found that 40% of companies technically block their employees from accessing social media while at work. At the same time, 26% of companies use social media to further corporate objectives, and 70% said they plan to increase the use of these new opportunities.

Even though social-media communication is growing, only one in 10 executives say they have staff who spend more than 50% of their time on such efforts, and only 13% have included social media in their organizations' crisis-communications plans.

Carol Russell, CEO of Russell Herder, says, "Ignoring the need for responsible guidelines can leave an organization open to unnecessary risk and can impede efforts to use social media proactively and competitively in the marketplace...."

And, according to Ethos President David Baer, good social-media policies are organization-specific, taking into consideration the philosophy and culture of the organization. Good policies should include, he says, "the need to respect confidential and proprietary information, as well as the sensitivity of potential conflicts of interest."

Social-Media Vehicles Being Used (Multiple responses allowed)
Social Media - Percent of Respondents Using
Facebook - 80%
Twitter - 66%
YouTube - 55%
LinkedIn - 49%
Blogs - 43%
Flickr - 16%
Wikipedia - 24%
Yammer - 11%
MySpace - 8%
Digg - 3%
Delicious - 7%
Second Life - 1%
Other - 9%
Source: Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, August 2009
For a complete copy of the study, please visit

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