Facebook may well be vilified in many organizations, but some are embracing it, and proponents argue that communication-savvy companies might be wise to do the same.As large organizations clamp down on employee Facebook use - the Government of Ontario, the City of Toronto and the US Army are among those that have shuttered access - others are using Facebook to maintain contact with clients and colleagues, and even to reach out to new customers.Facebook is a "social networking" website. Users can post pictures and words in blog format on their Facebook pages, and interact with other participants by sending messages.Some firms worry that employees will spend too much time playing on this immersive Web 2.0 property than working, and have blocked access. But others see Facebook as a useful tool."We use Facebook quite effectively," says Sarah Grant, president and owner of Revolution Fitness in Toronto. The fitness centre, specializing in a holistic approach that includes individualized training and nutrition programs, spread the word about its grand opening earlier this year via its employees' Facebook contacts. Grant and her seven colleagues sent messages describing Revolution's opening-week seminars and celebration to all of their Facebook contacts. In the end, the team chalked up 200 RSVPs for the bash, and 300 to 400 people attended the inaugural info sessions.Grant says the Revolution message propagated throughout Facebook: a friend would tell other friends about the grand opening, and so on. She figures it would have been much more difficult - and expensive - to market the fitness centre by traditional methods. "When you're just starting out, it's a great, free way to get the word out."Better than TwitterAlec Saunders, CEO of presence software provider Iotum Inc., says he uses Facebook to see what his work-related peers are up to, via their own Facebook page messages. "I use it the same way I used to use Twitter," he says. Twitter is a networking site that provides updates about people who belong to the user's social circle. But the updates came too often from too many people for Saunders' liking. "There was no control whatsoever about the value of the updates." Facebook is less intrusive, he says.Ashley Del Net, an Internet support technician and internal events co-ordinator at Kitchener ON-based communication service provider Execulink Telecom, uses a Facebook group page to organize company social activities. "Most people at the office are on it, so it's an easy way to see who wants to come," she says."We have an intranet, but because everybody is on Facebook, and it's something you can access anywhere, you could be at home and see we're going to (Canada's) Wonderland in two weeks. It's a way for people to contact coworkers as well."But a message on Execulink's Facebook group page warns: "if any bosses are reading this, this group provides communication of events throughout the company in a quick organized fashion!"Were bosses worried that Facebook usage would spell lower productivity? Not exactly, says Del Net. "We have a few who are involved in the group, like our customer sales manager and our network administrator. He's kind of torn: he enjoys the site, but he doesn't want it messing with people's workday. But I think...nobody's done anything that would make anybody feel they have to take it away."That wasn't the case with the Government of Ontario. The provincial employer decided that Facebook was too tempting a work-distraction with not enough productivity-boosting functionality to allow, and blocked workers from accessing it in early May.The US army also blocked Facebook, along with video-publishing site YouTube, and MySpace, another social networking site, earlier this month.Reflex reactionsSome say the organizations were too quick to judge. "It's a knee-jerk reaction," Saunders says. "You don't know if those people are connecting with people who might have something to do with the company or not."But that's part of the problem, notes Jon Arnold, a telecom industry analyst. Who knows what employees are saying? "There are a lot of privacy and personal issues that need to be addressed," he posits.Still, "it's another example of how consumer applications are influencing the way people work," he says. Some IT providers have taken note of this trend. IBM Corp., for instance, is integrating social networking into some of its products. In January the firm unveiled Lotus Connections, a networking application. It provides a sophisticated search function that helps users find subject experts working within the company. It also lets users tag information so others researching a particular topic will find the right data. And the "community" function forms links between users who share interests - a boon for global organizations with employees working far from each other.Nonetheless, Facebook and its ilk have its detractors - even among users. Just because Revolution used Facebook for marketing doesn't mean all companies should do the same. "For an established company already doing advertising in other areas, it's viewed as spam," Grant says.And she, for one, feels that banning access isn't necessarily wrong. "As a business owner, I think it's not a bad move for companies that expect their employees to be productive at work."But Del Net from Execulink figures employees can be trusted to balance Facebook time and work time, unless they want a lot more free time. "People prefer their jobs over doing silly stuff."