Daniel Smith has sent me this interesting blog entry discussing the relative advantages of Linkedin.com and Facebook.com, the two 'social networking' sites that now appear to have the most relevance and traction in the adult/business community. Bernard Lunn in Linkedin and the Future of Business Networking speaks in favour of Linkedin.com but I think both have real value, depending on how you apply and use the information.
I continue to believe the social networking sites are a supplement rather than replacement for the conventional process of building connections and relationships. They may accelerate the process and reduce trust barriers if conditions are already healthy. Facebook's somewhat graphical and comprehensive "out of work" element is useful in helping you understand the broader character and interactions of the person to whom you are connecting. Linkedin.com is very much a business tool -- this 'seriousness' facilitates real-world business relationship development.
Neither is a substitute for treating your clients well, contributing to community and charitable organizations, and belonging to relevant trade organizations and contributing to them effectively. And while "networking" can appear to generate seemingly instantaneous results (you find the person you need to know has the right connections to make things happen within minutes, sometimes), in reality, it is a truly long-term process. If you are looking for fast transactional relationships this stuff won't work (but if you are good at construction industry marketing, it seems, the last thing you should be looking for is a quick hit-and-run relationship.)