Social networking sites have yet to show their mettle as a business tool, according to a Gartner survey.
While entertainment and personal reasons are still the prime uses for social networking, Gartner urged businesses to recognise the potential of social networks as a competitive weapon.
Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner, said that that work in this area was “immature” and that in the short term firms should set up appropriate usage terms for employees wishing to access Facebook and MySpace. Longer term, however, Social networking software holds enormous potential for improving the management of large companies, said Ingelbrecht.
Gartner’s research in 18 countries found that the most frequent users of social networking sites were single people and teenagers and that more men than women were active users.
Over half the 4,000 respondents said they did not visit social networking sites regularly or at all. Respondents generally did not place as much importance on social networking sites as mainstream internet applications such as email or search. But Gartner identified a broader interest in the social aspects of communication using the web rather than in the purely transactional, functional or for entertainment.
“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,” said Julia Lin, project manager of research data and analytics at Gartner.