Are you LinkedIN? Do you Twitter (or is it tweet)? Are you on Facebook? Are you on the Plaxo team? Or, any of the other myriad of networking outlets now available?

I can see potential benefits from some of these services; I can also see a lot of unproductive time spent just opening and responding to some that may not have any benefit. Strictly personal networking sites are another matter and should be dealt with only on your personal time. These sites can become a lot like the forwarded e-mails that some are prone to keep circulating. Depending on how busy I feel, I’m likely to dump many of the forwarded e-mails without even opening them. (Sorry, if that was one of yours.)

As professionals, networking is an important tool to keep up with the latest techniques, products, problems and solutions. It can also be helpful in keeping track of people. It is nice to know if someone has a new job or a promotion. It is also good to know if someone is seeking new opportunities. They might just be the person you are looking for.

If you use any of these sites, it is important to decide how you are going to use them. You also need to decide what information you are willing to share and with whom. Filters are now being added by some sites to give users more selectivity in what they share or who has access to certain information.

While I am LinkedIn to some people and I am on other’s Plaxo team, I haven’t totally figured out how to best benefit from any of these. I have kept up with some people’s whereabouts or what they are working on, and that is nice to know. So far, however, I haven’t had much “need to know” information. Maybe I’m just not using these sites as I should or could.

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.