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Social networking websites focus on building online communities based on common interests. They offer a way to stay in touch with business associates or personal friends and to increase loyalty and connection among teammates or with customers. Social networking is widely used outside of business, especially by young people. Some business and technology writers feel social networking serves the function of the "office water cooler", providing a forum for remote/dispersed employees to socialize. Other experts predict that social networking, as a way of operating, will become integrated into many aspects of business, including client relations.

Social networking sites keep or create richer networks among peers. Knowledge of some personal information (such as interests or expertise) may create bonds and increased loyalty among peers. Sites where individuals can identify a common acquaintance can allow for speedier trust-building and shared interests, and a basis for a request for an introduction or inquiry.

For teleworkers, social networking sites serve as a virtual water cooler - a place for coworkers and associates to catch up on personal, social, and work-related news.

Organizations should be aware of the unregulated nature of social networking and provide some guidance to employees about the risk of posting unprofessional information, interests or photographs that may live on forever in the Internet! For individuals, being overly free in what they share can turn into a career-ending blunder. Individuals may identify themselves as an employee of a company, and then post information that could bring embarrassment to the company, share confidential or strategic information, or post complaints in a public space.

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This page was last updated on May 6, 2009