Cisco Systems is diversifying into social networking. The company is to acquire Five Across, a social-networking software company, that offers a product call Connect Community Builder.

Cisco said that it wasn't looking to compete with doesn't plan to set up its own social-networking site to compete against the likes of MySpace. Instead, Cisco will use Five Across technology to create software that will help enterprises better connect with their customers, or help service providers to offer new services.

Connect Community Builder includes a variety of features that enterprises can build into their websites. These include individual profile pages, friend lists, discussions, and posting of blogs, videos and podcasts.

The acquisition is the first by Cisco's recently formed Media Solutions Group and part of Cisco's expansion into both the consumer and media categories. One target market for the Five Across technology will be entertainment and broadcasting companies such as The Walt Disney and Comcast.

But Cisco also expects social networking, like other consumer tools such as instant messaging, to be embraced by general enterprises. Consumers are now demanding social networking capabilities and want to see them on companies' websites, according to Cisco.

Traditional media providers are ripe for using social networking, said IDC consumer analyst Danielle Levitas.

"There's quite a bit of need for experimentation from [traditional] media companies to show their stockholders they can take advantage of the web and they're not going to cede it to new media companies," Levitas said. A good social-networking component to a media company's website could help foster viewer loyalty or even be a place to test new shows among core viewers, she said.

Consumer electronics and PC companies could also take advantage of social networking, hosting communities of consumers to share tips and advice, augmenting their technical support offerings, Levitas said.

Meanwhile, social networking, with its constant conversations and user-generated content, is also good for Cisco's core business of selling network infrastructure, Levitas said.

"Web-based content is incredibly bit-heavy," Levitas said. Social networking brings end users into the game so there is a lot of data coming upstream from the edge of the network as well as downstream from the company.