Despite the rising impact of social media sites on federal agencies, only 44% of federal decision-makers are allowed access to social networking sites at work, according to a study released Thursday.

An equal percentage of federal employees said they are expressly not allowed to access social networking sites, according to the market research firm Market Connections, which produced the study. The balance of respondents said they did not know for sure if they were allowed to access such sites.

The study, which examined the types of media that 3,700 federal decision makers use for work, and how they access it, found the most frequently used social networking sites were:

  • Facebook – 58%
  • YouTube – 46%
  • LinkedIn – 35%
  • Wikis – 13%
  • Twitter – 11%
  • Flickr – 6%
  • MySpace- 4%
  • GovLoop – 4%
  • GSA Interact – 4%

Significantly, twice as many federal decision-makers — 35% in total — are making use of LinkedIn compared to 18% a year ago, among commonly used social media sites, the survey found.

Part of the explanation for the limited use of social sites may be found in the demographic make up of federal decision makers who were surveyed for the study: Of the decision makers polled, 38% were 45 to 54 years old and 44% were over 55 years old. Only 14% were 35 to 44 years old and 21 to 34 years olds only made up 4% of the survey respondents. Altogether, 56% of the respondents worked for civilian or independent agencies and 44% worked for defense or military agencies.

While Facebook and YouTube were still the most popular social destinations, their use appears to be leveling off, according to Lisa Dezzutti, president of Market Connections. Facebook use was up only a slight amount since last year; YouTube usage was up by 12 percentage points, she said. LinkedIn, in contrast, appears to be taking off as a key destination for federal decision makers

More than half of the federal decision makers surveyed–58%–use smart phones and almost a third, 31%, now report using tablet computers, to access various sites, the study found.

Asked about which types of devices they use, federal decision makers reported:

Mobile Device Use: Black- Berry iPhone / Android Tablet
Work Email 30% 12% 80%
Personal Email 10% 36% 18%
Social Media 4% 24% 17%
News Websites 90% 27% 21%
Videos 10% 19% 20%

A presentation of the study’s top findings is available at Market Connections.