Last night I had a serious conversation with a friend about the value of social networks. We discussed how some industry figures had furthered their influence, achieved some financial success, or started industry initiatives by harnessing social media. I observed that no two of these individuals had used the same strategy or even succeeded on the same social media platform.

It is clear, I said, that these successes meant that social media are here to stay. My dinner companion differed. She thought we wouldn’t necessarily see Twitter and Facebook become useful work tools because the younger generations fueling its popularity would inevitably become too busy with real work and serious responsibilities to continue high levels of social media activity. We went on to compare the social networking activities of our children-not to us-but to each other, and these two 18-year-olds varied remarkably in their social networking.

I know my sample size is too small, but I believe that generational differences do not explain why some create strong, successful social networks. Rather, those who build strong networks have compelling ideas and the ability and willingness to share their ideas electronically.

In the political realm, it is only two years since Barack Obama’s use of social media ignited enthusiasm for his ideas, propelling him to the presidency. Some would say that John McCain or Hillary Clinton had better ideas, but it cannot be debated that the eventual victor had the most active social network. Obama didn’t have a whistlestop campaign like Truman; he had a social network campaign.

The barrier to even greater use of social media in business is not a dearth of ideas. We have many good thinkers and worthy ideas in this world. For now, though, too many of us are tied to the internet via Wifi or some other less than ideal service. And certainly we could have better devices. And last, of course, social media networks will evolve beyond Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn so that we can communicate on our networks how we like when we like. When these changes take place, and social networking is as seamless as calling up entertainment on our televisions, social networking will be truly ubiquitous. For now, we are at the VCR stage, where it seems that only the young want to bother to learn how to set the time on the VCR.

My point is that communications are changing--and changing dramatically. We are still in the experimental phase, but soon these digital toys will be professional tools.

In the Interim, our IT and telecommunications industries will have to create new devices, solve networking barriers, and create new business plans to make networking a seamless and easy experience. Then, we will see the advent of new ways of doing business and meeting and sharing ideas.