Social networking -- good business or a waste of time?

By allowing people both in and outside of companies to connect with each other, and share information over the network, the pace of business operations will escalate.

Cisco Systems' Chairman, John Chambers, recently suggested that businesses that embrace collaborative communications models, such as social networking, into their processes could see a return of 3 to 5 percent annual improvements in worker productivity.

By allowing people both in and outside of companies to connect with each other, and share information over the network, the pace of business operations will escalate.

Facebook is a good example. Everyone's talking about the social networking tool, and if you're an employer, you're probably worried about your workers wasting office hours social networking when they should be productive.

Relax. Facebook can be an essential addition to your employees' Web working toolbox.

For starters, Facebook is all about community. As a social networking tool, it allows you to leave messages on users' "walls", join groups and participate in discussions. You can connect with old and new co-workers and clients without being intrusive. Add these people to Facebook and stay in touch without needing to actively maintain a conversation via e-mail or phone.

Use Facebook to virally tackle a business cause. Look for business opportunities out of shared interests. Ask questions, and take advantage of Facebook's collective intelligence with the My Questions application. Gain insight into business challenges and discover new resources through your network.

Of course, it's important to restrict the amount of time your employees spend on Facebook, and to ensure that they edit profile and security settings. Facebook can come back to haunt you, as Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo learned recently when some private photos of her were made public.

But before brushing aside Facebook as a fad, remember: if you are in the ICT industry, it's important -- regardless of your age -- that you remain Web-literate and in touch with the latest Internet trends.

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