I am an advocate of utilizing social networking tools. I participate in LinkedIn discussions on how to do so, and read pretty much anything I can get my hands on that might help me do it better. I especially like the real-time exchange available through things like Facebook and Twitter for use in projects, where each person's actions/decisions often immediately affect everyone else's work.
However, it appears that not everyone takes the time to learn about how to use social networking tools before diving in. A recent study described by Chris Nerney of ITWorld (article found on PCWorld here) explains the lost productivity (measured as an overall 1.5% drop) experienced by organizations when employees are doing their FB thing during work hours. In other words, they're not just using social networking to get work done. They're virtually hanging out with their friends instead of doing what they're paid to do. While I view this largely as a supervision issue rather than something inherent in social networking (anything can distract people if we're not careful, not only social networking), I am genuinely concerned about something found in an IBM study mentioned in another article by Mr. Nerney. It turns out that many organizations are using social networking incorrectly, and they are suffering for it. As Mr. Nerney put it, they're "botching" it. The IBM study pointed out how they are doing so, and the issues ranged from incorrect assumptions to poor motives to improper execution.
According to that study, it turns out that people don't network with a company because they want to be its friend. They want something tangible from their involvement. And 60% of them say they need to believe a company is communicating honestly before they'll interact with that organization. So if we use social networks as just one more boring form of billboard, with a thinly veiled sales pitch as its main message, hang it up. Unless you are willing to give something that people want, don't bother with social networking. But if you are interested in real and real-time exchange with people, learning about your market, and potentially forming a constituency through open and honest dialog, then go ahead - set up that Facebook page and Twitter account.
Management in the Not for Profit Organization