Business use of Twitter, Facebook exploding

Study warns that companies should watch out for related security and productivity issues

The use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote businesses has exploded over the past six months, according to the results of a study that were released today.

People using Twitter to get the word out about their company, sales and promotions jumped more than 250% from this past spring, according to a study done by Palo Alto Networks, a maker of firewall technology. The number of companies using facebook for such tasks grew by 192%, the sudy found. The report said that workers are using social networks as promotional vehicles both with and without management knowledge.

But while the two social networking sites have been dramatic upswings in usage, companies have been moving to cut off access to them in the workplace.

Early in October, a study commissioned by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm, 54% of U.S. companies say that they have banned workers from using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace while on the job. The study also found that 19% of companies allow social networking use only for business purposes, while 16% allow limited personal use.

And executives may have good reason to ban employees from using the social networking sites during business hours.

This summer, Nucleus Research, an IT research company, reported that companies that allow users to access Facebook in the workplace lose an average of 1.5% in total employee productivity.

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