Social Networks

Is Facebook‟s growing popularity amongst middle and senior management a threat to „professional‟ social networks?

Social networks have become more and more successful, numerous and specialised in recent years. Some of these are entirely dedicated to the career networking of their members but which social networks are really used by middle and senior management and to what ends? We investigated the main social networks used by managers, and also the way in which they use them.

Main result: The sheer size of Facebook gives it first place amongst social networks deemed „professionally useful‟ by middle and senior managers.

It’s no surprise to find that middle and senior management are members of professional social networks such as Viadeo or LinkedIn. However, our study revealed that in France a great deal of managers are also members of Facebook. In fact, more than half of them have a Facebook account (as opposed to 21% on Viadeo and around 10% on LinkedIn and Twitter). Despite its relatively low level of professional ‘return’ (25% versus 63% for Viadeo and 79% for LinkedIn) the sheer size of Facebook gives it first place amongst social networks considered to be ‘professionally useful’, ahead of specialists LinkedIn and Viadeo.

LinkedIn and Viadeo are “professionally” more effective than Facebook, but the latter‟s popularity poses a serious threat to its competitors.

Managers are no longer only using Facebook for their private lives. Whilst this remains their main reason for using Facebook, a quarter of middle and senior management consider that this particular social network provides them with useful information for their careers (and 16% talk about it being central to decisions in their professional lives).

If we forget about the size of Facebook, the specialised networks are deemed to be more effective as many of the managers who are members of LinkedIn and Viadeo claim that these sites provide important information concerning their careers. Moreover, members of these sites are proportionally more likely to admit that these networks have already been decisive in improving their professional lives.

However, if we consider that 80% of managers with Facebook accounts log in to the site at least once a week (as opposed to 51% and 52% for Viadeo and LinkedIn), the popularity of Facebook coupled with the sheer volume of members leads us to believe that the No.1 in worldwide social networks could have an incredible impact should it decide to develop specific, professional functionalities for its members. If Facebook decides to woo management, what would happen to specialised social networks such as Viadeo or LinkedIn?

The study was carried out between the 16th and 30th of April 2010, via our Internet panel. We targeted a French national representative sample of 293 managers aged between 25 and 60.

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