Social networking sites have enjoyed exponential growth in the last few years and have infiltrated almost every aspect of everyday life.
What started out as platforms for friends to communicate with one another has quickly become a social phenomenon, with the public using them as forums to air grievances, share information, organise events and support various campaigns.
Businesses have come round to the importance of sites such as Twitter and Facebook as well and the majority now have some form of marketing strategy linked to social networking sites.
However, how important is social media to contractors? Do you need to embrace social networking sites if you contract through umbrella companies or a limited company? Are there any real benefits to using these sites as far as your business needs are concerned?
According to recent research from Executives Online, the answer is yes.
The executive recruitment company questioned interim management contractors and executives about their use of social media and found 17 per cent had found a contract or job through a social networking site during 2011/12.
Clients are also embracing social networking sites to find the right contractors, with 30 per cent of hiring managers looking for people via these sites and 17 per cent successfully finding someone.
So, which social networking sites are the most useful as far as contractors are concerned?
The research from Executives Online found that LinkedIn is by far the most useful social network for finding contracts, with 88 per cent of those questioned using the site.
Facebook is the next most popular, with 13 per cent, while seven per cent use Twitter - down from 11 per cent in 2010.
There is no general consensus that can be drawn from Executive Online's research, with opinion split on how important social networking sites will be going forward, despite the trend showing usage has increased.
One respondent said a major obstacle from a client's point of view is the fact that it is impossible to "screen for quality". The respondent also lamented the "lack of confidentiality" associated with such sites.
Another respondent was far more enthusiastic, describing social media as a cheap and effective way to boost visibility for contractors.
"I have received some contracts and opportunities through LinkedIn and I have been contacted by people having seen my profile there," the contractor noted.
Overall, the research shows a generally positive attitude towards social media and finding contract work, however, it is not necessarily seen as being something that will change the nature of recruitment going forward.
LinkedIn is clearly the most useful site as far as contract opportunities are concerned and it may be worth your while creating a profile on the site to boost your chances of finding work.
That being said, there are certain best practices when it comes to what information you share and the way you share it and it is important to do plenty of research into the general advantages and disadvantages of social networks and how to create a profile that will improve rather than hinder your prospects of securing new contracts.