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Facebook Moving Up Fast in the Enterprise

A new study details the growing use of Facebook and social networks in general in the enterprise with many changes still to come.

The "Enterprise Social Networking -- End User Survey" by Wainhouse Research showed LinkedIn to be the most popular social networking site used personally by respondents at 67.3 percent. Facebook was a close second place at 58.9 percent, with YouTube at 50.9 percent.

But put a bullet next to Facebook which is coming on strong with corporate end-users, according to William Zachmann, the survey's principal author.

"Facebook is clearly well on its way in this high techy group we surveyed to overtake LinkedIn," Zachmann, senior analyst at Wainhouse Research, told InternetNews.com. "I'm also intrigued that so many cited YouTube."

In fact, another just-released survey by the ad firm Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law had a stronger take on Facebook's corporate adoption. Eighty percent in the Russell Herder survey said they already use Facebook, 66 percent use Twitter, 55 percent use YouTube, 49 percent use LinkedIn while 43 percent reported using blogs.

Also, respondents in this other survey of issues, raised serious concerns about the lack of policies in place at many companies to manage and control social networks.

The Wainhouse survey looked at both inward facing social networks provided by enterprise vendors and outward facing networks (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.). About a third (32 percent) of respondents rated the inward services as extremely or very important for the value they deliver; 72 percent said they had at least "some importance."

But the outward facing, public social networks were rated more important, rated extremely or very important by 42 percent, while 83 percent said they had at least "some importance."

Those surveyed assigned very different values to each class of social network. For example, brand loyalty, customer service, customer loyalty and acquisition were the top benefits noted by respondents for Facebook and other outward, public social networks. Conversely, collaboration, teamwork, productivity and time to market got top ratings for inward or internal social networks.

IBM, Microsoft moving in

Zachmann emphasizes we're at a very early stage of social networks development both in terms of adoption and new offerings. Security, for example, is keeping some users on the sidelines.

"There is a huge amount of interest and relief benefit to using a hosted service that lets someone else run a big chunk of what would otherwise fall to your IT department, but it's a security issue for some folks," said Zachmann.

"There are advantages to running social networks on your own servers including integration with back-end systems. I think a lot of companies are encouraged that the big players like Microsoft (Sharepoint) and IBM (Lotus Sametime) are in the game," he continued.

Zachmann said Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Sharepoint is "the big gorilla in the room" even though "it's mostly a collaboration platform with a thin veneer of social networking features." He said he expects Microsoft to add more social networking features to Sharepoint in upcoming releases this fall.

He also warned that companies that aren't savvy about Web 2.0 technology and how to leverage social networks risk being left behind. "All of this stuff has so much impact on how so many businesses operate these days," he said. "You need to understand what's going on to be successful."

The survey had a mix of 342 respondents across small, medium and large (more than 10,000 employees) organizations. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed were in North America while just under a quarter were from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.