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Two thirds of business professionals (65%) use social networking websites to help them make professional connections, new research has found.

Despite the likes of MySpace, Bebo and Facebook enjoying a reputation for popularity and frivolity among teenagers and students, the US Institute for Corporate Productivity found 65% of business people use such tools.

Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn proved the most popular of professional social networks (it is one of the few focused entirely on work-based connections), followed by Yahoo! 360 and MySpace.

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents whose companies use such sites say they use them to connect internal and remote colleagues, while 47% do so to connect with potential clients and showcase skills.

Thirty-five percent, meanwhile, use social nets to help find a job. Interestingly, a careers-focused group for Ernst & Young on the fast-growing Facebook network was today approaching 8,000 members.

Fifty-five percent of business social net users say they go online to share best practice, while 49% do so to seek answers to professional problems.

“We expected to see a number of respondents utilising social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook for personal reasons, but we were intrigued at the high percentage of business professionals that use social networking for professional purposes,” said I4CP's research senior vice-president Jay Jamrog.

The Social Network Practitioner Consensus Survey involved contributions from employees of 323 organisations.

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