Booming Social Networking Means Managers Beware

report Monday by The Nielsen Co.

Americans are spending about a quarter of their time online using social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (a 43 percent increase) according Nielsen. Additionally, users are spending a third of their online time (36 percent) communicating and networking across social networks, blogs, personal e-mail and instant messaging.

“Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and emailing leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie,” Nielsen analyst Dave Martin said in a statement.

One repercussion of this phenomenon is its impact on American business, where workers are constantly tempted to access their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Managers should be aware of the allure of social media on their workers and how it can have an impact their business, said Andrew Plato, president of Anitian Enterprise Security, based in Beaverton, Ore.

“It can have an impact and it does,” Plato said.

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Managers are forced to strike a balance between maintaining productivity and maintaining security of their networks with understanding the wishes of their employees, who in some cases would like to use social media.

“The fact is businesses need to establish rules for acceptable use (of social media)," Plato said. "If you are a power company, it's not a good idea to allow the person in the control booth to be accessing social networks, but if you are a company with a lot of 20-year-old employees (not involved in mission-critical work), some use may be permissible," he said.

Whatever the type of business, however, "you can't allow your networks to be exposed," Plato added.