Lau­rel is on a roll today, so I’m riff­ing off her again. This time, she’s point­ing out exactly where she’s built pro­fes­sional value off her social net­works and equally, just how it might apply to the busi­ness world.

I couldn’t agree with Lau­rel more. I’ve gained immea­sur­able non-​​paying and intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits from social net­work­ing — meet­ing peo­ple, mak­ing con­nec­tions and speak­ing at con­fer­ences. With­out my social net­works, these things would absolutely not have hap­pened!

Here, specif­i­cally is an indi­ca­tion of the value I’ve built and gained through my social networks:

  • Twit­ter — with­out which I would never have spo­ken last year at either Office 2.0 or Oz-​​IA (see here for my pre­sen­ta­tions). More so, given my per­son­al­ity and the fact I can strug­gle to meet peo­ple in a group sit­u­a­tion (I can feel over­whelmed and clam up tight in a room full of peo­ple I don’t know), I went into those con­fer­ences and plenty of other sit­u­a­tions feel­ing like I had already bro­ken the intro­duc­tion bar­rier with many of the peo­ple there and felt com­pletely com­fort­able talk­ing to them on meet­ing them face-​​to-​​face the first time (despite what my friends would say, this is not nor­mal for me).
  • Face­book and LinkedIn — I’ve con­nected with so many peo­ple that oth­er­wise would not have become con­nec­tions. These con­nec­tions are both per­sonal and pro­fes­sional and frankly, are a lot deeper than some of the rela­tion­ships I have with peo­ple I work with every day. I fully accept that I don’t nearly make as much of either Face­book or LinkedIn as I could, but I’ve started to change that.
  • This site — while I make daily water­cooler talk on Twit­ter, it’s this blog and the bits and pieces that sur­round it that com­mu­ni­cate to the world what it is that I’m about pro­fes­sion­ally and to an extent, per­son­ally. It looks like the pro­fes­sional oppor­tu­ni­ties might be start­ing to flow from this site, too.

As a newish inde­pen­dent, I’m yet to estab­lish enough rep­u­ta­tion to draw con­sis­tent, ongo­ing and var­ied work based on my blog or tweets (or, maybe, I’m talk­ing about the wrong stuff…?). Hope­fully this will change in 2008.

Laurel’s right about ROI and the like. Organ­i­sa­tions that con­tinue to define social net­work­ing value based only on the bot­tom line will be late to the party. I look par­tic­u­larly at the atti­tude in gov­ern­ment and shake my head. There could be sig­nif­i­cant value being drawn by appro­pri­ate use of social net­work­ing in gov­ern­ment agen­cies and busi­ness, yet the block at all costs mind­set remains.

I’m aware of a num­ber of approaches in use to pre­vent social net­work­ing use — Blog​ger​.com com­ment­ing blocked through the client fire­wall, block­ing any­thing that looks like a login or com­ment form. At other places I’m aware of, RSS use is banned, or Google tools beyond search are actively blocked. All because these organ­i­sa­tions see no value con­nect­ing their employ­ees to either each other or their client base.

Those who will con­tinue to chant, “Show me the ROI!” will con­tinue not to get it. With social net­work­ing, quan­ti­ta­tive ROI met­rics are hard to achieve in the short to medium term. What can be mea­sured qual­i­ta­tively is things around peo­ple — con­nect­ed­ness, abil­ity to get things done quickly, access to knowl­edge and infor­ma­tion. These things need to estab­lish cred­i­bil­ity as mea­sures so that the social net­work­ing cyn­ics can be convinced.