Business execs snub Facebook

Social networking Web site Facebook is being snubbed by a jury of CIOs because of the increasing number of "silly applications" and lack of business use.

Just one of the 12 IT executives in silicon.com's weekly CIO Jury IT user poll said they use Facebook for networking or business-related activities, with most favoring rival social networking tools from either LinkedIn or Plaxo--and good old-fashioned face-to-face contact.

Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, said he is on Facebook but only to see how it works.

He said: "It doesn't strike me as being a business tool. I am signed up to LinkedIn and Plaxo. LinkedIn seems to be used most by the people I know, and does seem to generate useful connections or re-connections. Plaxo doesn't seem to do much for me, apart from provide the promise that my contacts are backed up somewhere."

Richard Steel, CIO at the London Borough of Newham, is also on Facebook but again purely for social rather than business-related contacts or networking.

He said: "I actually don't use it all that much as I get irritated at the constant stream of silly applications. I also have concerns about its default privacy settings. I am also on LinkedIn and Plaxo, but haven't actively developed my network. I'm not sure whether that's laziness, lack of time, or failure to prioritize my own future opportunities."

Florentin Albu, ICT manager for the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), uses several social networking tools with a "varying degree of success" and said for business-related networking Facebook scores lowest.

He said: "The most useful tool for me is by far LinkedIn. The only drawback is that it is largely US and UK oriented. My business is pan-European, and for the EU space I found Xing [ex- OpenBC] to be more effective and popular than LinkedIn. The drawback of Xing is that it is also somewhat less flexible than LinkedIn.

Albu said that as he owns various personal devices he is interested in the Plaxo Pulse sync tool. "I have to say it is quite far from delivering on the promise though. The company states the service is still a beta--for which they charge, by the way--but it is more an alpha stage to me. Plaxo Pulse has a great potential though, bringing together business contact details from LinkedIn and various other address books."

But Paul Hopkins, director of ISS at the University of Newcastle, urged IT executives to give Facebook a chance so they can understand possible users of it for their staff and customers.

He said: "For all of us 'oldies', Facebook et al seem awkward and don't fit our way of working but I would urge IT managers to persevere--because this is the environment that your new employees will be expecting to use. I would urge people to look at the possibility of developing some simple Facebook apps for their customers, suppliers or staff to use."

Others simply prefer face-to-face networking. Mark Foulsham, head of IT at eSure, said: "I use LinkedIn occasionally but it's a little too overrun by recruitment organizations and it doesn't beat keeping up with network contacts face to face.

Andy Pepper, director of business IS at Tetley, uses no social networking tools and joked "what a philistine I am."

Mike Roberts, IT director at Harley Street practice the London Clinic, added: "I prefer to network face-to-face. I think the electronic networking is flawed as it is vital to interact in person to get a relationship to be of any value."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Florentin Albu, ICT manager, EUMETSAT
Paul Allen, CTO, Selftrade
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Mark Foulsham, head of IT, eSure
Ric Francis, executive director of operations, The Post Office
Paul Hopkins, director of ISS, University of Newcastle
Adrian Hughes, head of IS, Amlin
Peter Pedersen, CTO, Rank Group
Andy Pepper, director of business IS, Tetley
Mike Roberts, IT director, the London Clinic
Richard Steel, CIO, London Borough of Newham
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston

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