Even as social networking sites grapple with privacy violation issues, multi-national companies (MNCs) seem to be willing to explore the promise held out by such fora.

Hordes of campaigns, dozens of brands and magnetic corporate logos on social web pages are now impacting businesses across the corporate landscape, besides revolutionising the way millions of people socialise online.

Integrating one's Twitter feed, unleashing Facebook updates and interfacing links to MySpace and LinkedIn profiles on one's personal web page seem to be commonplace in the corporate-social ecosystem. MNCs have leveraged their own public profiles, applications and virtual gifts and groups to explain their overwhelming presence.

Business bigwigs, from leading global brands to favourite local brands, use their own pages for free marketing.

An official of a leading advertising agency accepts that though the idea is to present a ‘hip and happening corporate image, a lot of these sites are monitored to know the changing consumer trends and to keep track of the rival companies' promotional campaigns.

Applications such as FacebookConnect, NewsFeed Management and Application directory have turned out to be vital corporate tools to keep the employees of a company tied together on cyberspace. For the aggressive marketer, these forums offer a bevy of viral channels to get the word out to your contacts and reach the audience.

Lakshmi Narayanan, vice-chairman of Cognizant Technology Solutions, says: “As far as the professional code of conduct is not violated, we would encourage our employees to use these sites because it builds a collaborative spirit in them, enabling them to work as a team.”

Understandably, beyond the legal hassles, at stake are broader public relations, brand reputation issues and the simultaneous need to create a close-knit cluster of employees in cyberspace. Rishabh Bansal, an IT employee in Chennai, says: “I don't think companies take to social networking sites to listen to employees' concerns or suggestions for framing policies. Most big software companies today have their own customised internal channels where these issues are taken up more effectively.”

With a recent tale of an fast moving consumer goods (FMCG )company landing itself in a PR nightmare in a matter of minutes because of its indulgence in social media and reports of the company's human resource team monitoring the discussions of the company employees over social forums, the social networking spectacle seem to be an ally to many with a probable darker side too.

What remains to be seen is the extent of its growth that signals a mass movement of companies to reach out to their target audience and level up some self-promotion and global visibility across markets down the corporate road.

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