Management Strategies

08:48 PM
Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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There’s a Business Case (Maybe) for Social Networking Sites

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites can be fun and distracting -- but as more users of all age groups start to explore business uses for these sites, banks and other businesses are starting to take them more seriously.

I recently met four school friends for a lovely Sunday brunch. These weren't college buddies I was catching up with -- these friendships go back to grammar school, and we hadn't seen each other for more than 30 years. What brought us together after so much time? You guessed it: Facebook. About half of the Braeside School (Highland Park, Ill.) Class of 1966 are now reliving their pasts as part of a Facebook group.

I consider the time I spend interacting with the group as much work-related research as it is fun, as I try to understand how channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can drive and grow BS&T's business, as well as what they might mean for the banking business. I'm not alone in this quest. According to "Collaboration and Enterprise 2.0: Work-meets-play or the future of business?" -- a new research report from AIIM (Silver Spring, Md.) -- 31 percent of people older than 45 expect to use the same type of networking tools with business colleagues as with friends and family; 47 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds have the same expectation. AIIM (which defines Enterprise 2.0 as "Web 2.0 for business") says 35 percent of the study respondents are using or accessing Twitter for their personal lives, with 19 percent using it for business. Twenty-seven percent of those in the 18- to 30-year-old age group consider Twitter an important "rapid feedback" tool for business, compared with 7 percent of those older than 45, according to AIIM.

Hoping to buck the trend of my demographic segment, at press time I had 265 followers on Twitter (you can join the crowd by following me at @KathyBurger). Another 207 are following BS&T itself at @banktech. Granted, some of these followers are people I've never heard of who have absolutely no connection to the financial services technology or media businesses. But many of them do belong to these communities -- and as such are proving to be a valuable source of leads, contacts, ideas and news.

Is there a measurable business benefit to all this? It's hard to say right now. But AIIM reports that "Planned spending on Enterprise 2.0 projects in the next 12 months is up in all product areas," which indicates that a growing number of businesses at least sense an opportunity. But don't mind me -- I'm on Facebook trying to find my old bunkmates from sleepaway camp.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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