Becky McCray over at the Small Biz Survival blog is posting all over the place about how social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter should be an essential part of a small-business person's activities, and she'll be updating this weekend. Her focus is small businesses in small towns, but many of her insights apply to any small business. She explains nicely that the key value of these sites is to bring together information that would otherwise not be exchanged:
Face it; you don't know everything. But you can find people who know about what you are needing to learn right now. When you are building friendships on Twitter, you probably don't ever think about the fact that @susanreynolds is a jewelry artist, or that @mikeg1 knows about home schooling. But if you aren't reaching out, you'll never have the chance to ask, "Who here can help me with writing a magazine query letter?" (That would be @sheilas!)
From my experience, there are at least two barriers that these sites need to overcome to really become a great tool that business people should use on a daily basis.
1. A lot of people use these sites, but it seems that few actually update often. Most people just seem to use them sporadically.
2. People still predominantly look at their Facebook and Twitter accounts as part of their leisure life, not their work life. I don't have data to prove this, but it seems to me that when you look at the people you're following on Twitter, you're much more likely to hear what they think about that new Indiana Jones movie than something substantive about a new project.
One way to overcome these problems is to make sites that are more niche-oriented, so you connect only with people who are there for the same reason as you. Here's one attempt at that for entrepreneurs—it's called Club E Network. It looks to be in its early phases, but the idea of integrating video content with social networking is a good one.