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Social Networking Is for Social Businesses

If you align with one network, buying into Facebook's marketing developers program, described by Rachel King for ZDNet , you're making a big mistake.

Social media marketing is just not worthwhile for a scaled business. Todd Wasserman at Mashable is right : the hype over social marketing was "itself a form of marketing for self-conferred experts looking to make a buck." IBM (IBM)IBM (IBM) has a study out on this which found all the social networks combined contributed just 0.34% to Black Friday sales, and Twitter contributed absolutely nothing.

Social networking reminds me of open source, a beat I joined in 2005 when its hype was reaching a peak. What we found was that the benefits of open source were real but they mainly went to consumers of open source products, in proportion to how much they committed to helping the code base. There were no open source billionaires, which doesn't mean open source was worthless. It's just that the value went somewhere other than into a CEO's pockets.

The same will prove true with social networking. Its benefits will mainly accrue to savvy small businessmen and women who spend the time to work on their business, not just in their business, turning suspects into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into regulars.

Social is small business' friend, not Madison Avenue's.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG, IBM and MSFT.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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