Facebook? Myspace? Twitter? Which one of these websites have you heard of?  Thanks to a study provided through, findings show that most of the developing world has not only heard of these social networking sites, but they are spending an extraordinary amount of time on them.  Without a doubt, social media has evolved from a way to simply connect with friends and share ideas, to a commercial opportunity for corporations to connect with people in new and different ways.  However, there is another important aspect to consider in this exploding industry: How have social media websites impacted the work culture around the world?

A New Age of Advertising
Let’s first begin with how social media is transforming the manner in which companies interact with their customers.  Given the nature of social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace, marketers around the world are now able to target their advertising to very specific groups of unsuspecting customers.  This capability, combined with an enormous worldwide audience gives companies a good reason to increase the marketing spend.  To give you an idea of the size of these networks, a major market research company found that there are over 220 million users among the top five sites.  Not only are marketers able to target advertising to the right customers, but they have more visibility to the effectiveness of the ads through click rates and final purchase behavior. 

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?
Now, let's address the more sensitive topic – How are these sites impacting the work culture around the world?  Interestingly enough, the more these sites spread across the globe, the less interested employers are in their employees using them - at least while on the clock.  In 2008, when a new administrative official was elected in Italy, one of his first tasks was to improve the productivity of workers in the public sector.  Without too much hesitation or debate, Facebook and sites like it were banned from access on public computers.  A recent study of United States-based companies indicates that 54% of the firms either completely blocked social media sites, or allowed only limited access.  Yet another study conducted in Australia indicated that 55% of employees surveyed had been blocked from these sites at work.

So the question that still goes unanswered is why?  What is driving people to these sites and what has triggered such significant growth over a short period of time?  In my opinion, it comes down to one basic need of people around the world: human interaction.  As people spend more time interacting with technology including television, internet and mobile devices, they have less time to connect with other people.  Social media sites are now stepping up to the plate to help people connect and interact with friends in ways that couldn’t happen in the past.

Finally, the international business implications of this are profound.  Ranging from more targeted advertising to an enhanced ability to connect with other people, social media websites will facilitate new levels of international commerce.  As people from India connect with friends in the U.K., so will these friends have suggestions on products and services that they find useful.  It is going to be up to companies large and small to decide how to leverage this new tool to better understand the needs of their customers and expand.

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