Social networking sites help companies boost productivity

USA Today

By Jon Swartz

SAN FRANCISCO — Social networking is going corporate. The popular technology used by millions of people to share ideas and photos on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and others is catching on at companies to improve productivity and communication among workers.

Private, internal social networks make sense as companies grapple with a slumping economy that has made travel cost-prohibitive even as workforces are spread out as never before, tech analysts say.

“Companies are asking, ‘How can we make our workforce more productive?’ ” says Kevin Martin, an analyst at market researcher Aberdeen Group.

Corporations increasingly are “exploring and experimenting” in the use of social networks to improve business operations, says Gina Bianchini,CEO of Ning, a social-networking site for businesses and consumers. It makes revenue from Google AdSenseand premium services.

“There’s been a definite shift the last two months,” she says. “There is a genuine interest now rather than a casual curiosity before.”

It is hard to find projections for the blossoming market, Martin and others say. Martin estimates hundreds of companies worldwide — including Saturn and Smart Car, for example — use internal social networks, compared with a fraction of that a year ago.

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