Social networking is entering a new phase and is increasingly being taken seriously as an aid to learning, according to a new survey by SkillSoft. Whereas in 2010, social networking in the workplace was mainly used for marketing/PR and brand awareness purposes, this year, a significant 73 per cent said they were using it to share information between colleagues, customers and clients.

Of those using e-learning within their organisation (79%), over one-third (35%) said they had already incorporated an element of social networking within the programme.

“When social networking was first introduced into the business environment, many firms couldn’t see beyond using it to promote their brand. However these results reveal the growing number that have looked further and have discovered the value of social networking as an aid to collaborative learning,” says Kevin Young, SkillSoft managing director.

The survey, conducted among a sample of the 3000-plus learning professionals attending yesterday’s Learning Technologies 2011, highlights the growing importance of social networking tools in empowering employees to find, create and share business knowledge and expertise with colleagues. This can make a significant contribution to their organisation’s knowledge base.

Inevitably, the survey showed an increase in the use of social networking both on a personal and business basis. A total of 83 per cent of respondents said that the principles of social networking could be even more useful in a professional environment.

Other interesting results include:

• 24% per cent were using Twitter for business purposes – almost the same as those using LinkedIn (23%)
• 49% were using social media tools to share information within their organisation.
• Predictably PR and marketing departments were the most likely to have responsibility for social networking – although, interestingly, other departments are now sharing the load and becoming involved.