Research conducted by Robert Half Technology in the US has found that out of 1400 US company CIO’s, 54% have banned the use of social networks sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter whilst employees are at work.

CIOs were asked in the survey: Which of the following most closely describes your company’s policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, while at work?” Here is how they responded:

Prohibited completely – 54%
Permitted for business purposes only – 19%
Permitted for limited personal use – 16%
Permitted for any type of personal use – 10%
Don’t know/no answer – 1%

“Using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some companies limit access,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology. “For some professions, however, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools, which may be why about one in five companies allows their use for work-related purposes.”

Employees potentially damaging a company’s reputation (not to mention their own) is still a big concern. “Professionals should let common sense prevail when using Facebook and similar sites — even outside of business hours,” said Willmer. “Regrettable posts can be a career liability.”

It’s obvious that corporations are concerned about both security and work ethic when it comes to social networks and the same applies to small business owners who fear losing control of their brand and staff who spend more time on the networks than actually working.

This is where a well planned social media strategy is vitally important today for business, so that everyone involved knows the ground rules, putting those employees to work building the company’s profile on sites such as Facebook is a good start.

The percentage of businesses who prohibit social network use completely is likely to decrease in the near future. There may be an increase in those who only allow it for business use, but as more companies find ways to measure ROI with social media, they’re going to want to get employees involved.

Interesting scenario with business and social networks in Australia, a substantial number of companies not only ban Facebook but also ban staff from accessing the social network site whilst at work. With Neilsen releasing new statistics this month on the continual love affair that consumers are having with Facebook, and the fact that another 2 million people signed up for the site last month, you’d think there would be a massive re think of that strategy.

Time for small business to get on board with social networking before it gets left behind.

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