The question keeps being raised about the business value of social media tools. As we work with facebook, twitter, yammer etcetera - what value are we driving? I just got a free book on search engine interfaces, through twitter. If I was not on Twitter, I would not have this interesting book to read months prior to publication. Imagine that these networked tools did not exist. So I can only interact with the people near me, in close physical proximity. I talk to people in Cleveland. I sell to the people in Cleveland and I learn from the schools in Cleveland. I'm doing pretty well for myself. Someone I know tells me - you should go to New York, they have more people, and more opportunities to sell, and more clubs, more museums, more of everything. Is it worth it? What business value will I gain from going to New York?
Until I go to New York, I cannot understand the difference in scale. Once there, I see many different distractions - shows, plays, clubs, museums, what have you. But there is also much more opportunity there. I think social networking tools are like New York - if you are there, you can't understand why anyone would not be there. If you are not there, you really can't see why anyone would want to be there.
Yes, there is a lot of non-work related things that happen on these tools. There is a lot of non-work related things that happen in the office, from the water cooler conversations to the quick coffee run. But if you are not taking part in the conversation, you will miss the serendipitous moments that happen because you are part of the conversation. Like when a water cooler conversation leads to a new idea or a shorter process. Similarly there are things that happen in Twitter or Facebook that will add value.
This is only a half formed analogy, comments are welcome and needed. Anyway, I need to get back to work.