It's not just teenagers and bored employees who spend time posting on the likes of Facebook and MySpace to chat with their friends – more than a tenth of the sites' users visit them for business reasons, it has been claimed.
Research group emedia found 11% of respondents use social networking websites for business purposes with another 8% contact existing or potential clients via the services.
Facebook in particular has come in for strong criticism over recent weeks with calls for UK employers to ban work use of the site due to the time and productivity lost as a result of staff surfing during the working day.
But according to emedia's poll, there could actually be business benefits. More than half of respondents said social networking can be used for exchanging ideas, 43% believed recruitment needs can be met and 31% felt product sales can be boosted.
Mike Pywell, co-author of Working for Yourself, said: "Networking is vital for small businesses to thrive, so self-employed people should definitely take advantage of the popularity of social networking sites.
"They provide a great opportunity to link up with other people in the same industry and to reach new customers, regardless of location.
"If you run a specialist business of some type, it's well worth the time to set up and maintain a network on one of these sites."
Reprinted from our sister site, BusinessZone.co.uk