Lately I've been involved in an in-depth analysis of social media/social networking technology. I've come to a few conclusions...
1 - The technology can't create or drive the behaviour. The need - or desire - to connect needs to be there already. Giving folks a new tool doesn't suddenly make them want to network. That's akin to buying someone a screwdriver in hopes they gain the will to do home renovations.
2 - Folks seem to respond to the need or use of the technology tools with an emotional response over logical. They seem divided in feeling that the tools answer some visceral need or that they cut into productivity.
3 - Most folks don't seem aware of the public nature of the tools - they think it is as private as a phone call.
4 - Most folks arguing for use of the tools feel they also serve a need to make work life more interesting, more like 'real' life, or more 'comfortable'. A qualitative approach while asking for the ROI or quantitative case.
5 - Most folks use the technology to either find information or find someone to help with information.
#5 is by far the most interesting for me and the work I've been doing around mentoring and networking. Because it points out how the technology is simply one tool in the philosophy and approach.
Yes, we can approach mentoring and networking simply to find information or people to use the information. But in our community-building, hierarchical-agnostic, grey zone approach, we don't always have such a specific agenda. Sometimes it really is just about opening ourselves to new people and experiences and not searching for something in particular.
But, when we do need to search, the tech tools are valuable!