By Graeme McMillan
The lure of sneaking in a little social networking between tasks at your day job may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it turns out that the occasional Tweet every now and then eventually adds up to something much more dramatic; according to a new report on the use of bandwidth in work environments, while Facebook use has fallen significantly in the last six months, Twitter use has almost doubled in the same span.
Apparently, that 140 character limit isn't quite so limiting when you keep sending messages without keeping track of quite how many you're responsible for.
The report, from computer security firm Palo Alto Networks is drawn from analysis of Internet traffic and bandwidth use at over 2,000 companies worldwide, has found that while the amount of surreptitious social networking during the workday overall has not changed in recent months, the location has.
According to Palo Alto's analysis, Facebook usage in May 2012 fell sharply from 54 percent of all social network traffic in November 2011 to just 37 percent. During that same period, Twitter's percentage of traffic has risen from November's 11 percent to May's high of 21 percent.
Other significant social networks that figure in the grand scheme of social networking traffic are Tumblr, which took up around 10 percent of social network bandwidth in May, and high-profile upstart Pinterest, which had one percent of the pie.
The potential usefulness of social network during work hours – Consider the benefits of providing employees with a place to vent frustrations without impacting the workplace, after all – is offset by the many downsides, of which bandwidth usage is merely a small one (Surely the amount of time spent coming up with the perfect 140 character message to send to the celebrity of your choice would be more valuable in the grant scheme of things? Not to mention the potential problems if your employees use their social networking time to complain about your company, product or other employees; really, there's a lot that could go wrong with this idea).
Sure enough, In April, a survey of British companies found that 47 percent of employers were upset by the idea of their staff Tweeting on company time, with an additional 15 percent describing their attitude as "very frustrated" (Somewhat oddly, another study found that 44 percent of British employees believed that Twitter and Facebook "negatively impacted" the workplace).
Interestingly enough, Palo Alto Networks' report suggests that the morale problem is actually the larger problem when it comes to the trouble with Twitter and other social networks in the workplace. The report revealed that, for all the time and frustration spent on the subject, the actual bandwidth usage is surprisingly minor: Social networking amounted to just one percent of all bandwidth usage for the companies surveyed during May – Meaning, if nothing else, that the social networks can feel proud about their small bandwidth footprint, if not the social devastation they might be leaving behind.
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