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 – 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.