Even some of the most skeptical among professional service providers are beginning to wonder whether they should dip at least one reluctant toe into social media and on-line networking.

A Twitter IPO, increasing Linked In invitations and all-things Google — for starters — are enough to make the most reluctant wonder —  is this social media thing more than a pop-culture-driven-fad.

But be careful all you early adopters. Before you’re tempted to say “told you,” and encourage everyone to forgo dipping a toe in favor of a head-first dive into blogging (or whatever the tool), we will all do well to remember why we’re here.

For everyone on the cusp of believing that blogging and social media represent an all-purpose solution to marketing math, step away from the edge of the water.

Let’s Hit Rewind

I’m a big believer in blogging (been at it for more than a decade), the legitimate value of networking via Linked In, connecting and micro-blogging with Twitter and even some “Liking” on Facebook. I’m a fan because I’ve experienced the value of the connections and the legitimacy of the relationships.

I’ve met — in real life, in vernacular of the environment — professionals like Kent Huffman, Amy Howell, Steve Bell, Kevin McKeown, Nancy Myrland, Alicia Arenas and Amanda Volz.  Some work in the legal space, where I’ve spent the past 14 years. Others lead in wireless communication, advertising / public relations, executive coaching and education. Each has broadened my perspective and added richness to the narrative of my professional experience.

I’ve collaborated with each one and know they believe in the value of relationship. Each prizes the art of listening. Each believes in the inherent value of dialogue.

This Is Why We Are Here

If one believes that relationship trumps everything — and if you’ve read much posted here, you know that is my belief — it is not a leap to embrace the possibility social media holds. Social is today’s version of the backyard fence of days past. It is the corner barber/beauty shop. Or the digital incarnation of a neighborhood Cheers.

And it is decidedly not right for everyone. (Sacrilegious to social evangelists, I know.)

An infatuation with blogging or other social tools rarely survives long-term use as a pulpit or platform for blatant promotion. Sure, there is plenty of that; but I don’t bump into it much. I doubt most of the folks with whom I interact encounter it much either. Most of us are here to listen and learn. To share ideas.   To collaborate.  And contribute value.

If the interest in blogging, micro-blogging and linking is based on the belief that this platform is free advertising and a cheap way to sell, social media may prove to be way more work than bargained for.

If you’re here to improve your Google ranking, or simply drive mega-traffic numbers to your site, you’ll likely be disappointed in the return on your investment.

And if you believe content marketing is another iteration of clever advertising/marketing copy, stick to using Twitter for clever quips, teasers or to abbreviate press releases.

If, on the other hand, you are inclined to make a contribution…if you believe there is value in conversation and community —  if you subscribe to the idea that listening is the biggest part of communicating — blogging and social media belong in your professional adventure. And yes, it will even serve you well when it comes to marketing and business development.

Blogging is not a silver bullet — easy to load, and fire at will.

But used effectively, the tools of social media facilitate connection, augment listening, and allow for strategic delivery of value.  If that’s your expectation, come join the party.