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Companies Have Mixed Attitudes Towards Social Networking Sites

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
October 16, 2009

A number of employers are encouraging their workers to promote their companies on social networking web sites, while others are completely banning such sites at work.

MSNBC.com reports that company officials at Symantec Corp. recently began urging employees to "advocate for the company" on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And according to Samer Forzley, vice president for eBillme, workers from all departments are offered training on how to use social networking sites to spread company information.

Not everyone sees this as a positive trend. While many companies see social networking sites as an inexpensive way to promote their products and services, employees routinely Tweeting for the benefit of their companies can conceivably create problems for themselves down the road.

"I think what's at the core of this is a blurring of social and professional," noted Patricia Abril, assistant professor of business law at the University of Miami, who was quoted by MSNBC.com. "Before it was a lot easier to establish when you were wearing your work hat and when you weren't."

For example, few laws protect employees who are fired because they inadvertently disclosed confidential information about their companies on social networking sites--even if they were encouraged to do so by their employers. And according to Nancy Cornish Rodgers, an attorney with law firm Kissinger & Fellman, not all employees have the skills to effectively and routinely promote their companies.

This may be one reason why only 19 percent of companies allow social networking use on the job for business purposes, according to a study commissioned by Robert Half Technology. Computerworld reports that the survey found that 54 percent of the 1,400 companies that responded have banned workers from using such sites entirely. And only 10 percent allowed employees full access to social networking sites during work hours.

"Using social networking sites may divert employees' attention away from more pressing priorities," explained Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology in a statement, "so it's understandable that some companies limit access. 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."

In a related story, CNET reports that according to a recent survey commissioned by Citibank, small businesses have for the most part shunned social networking sites. Over 75 percent of respondents found that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were of little help in finding new business leads.

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