Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and who is this guy Tom I have to be friends with on Myspace? All of this social networking mumbo jumbo can be a lot to take in, especially in a board room full of people whose idea of social networking is a weekend at the Hamptons. But through this whole web of tagging, tweeting, and Tom, there is a bottom line.

In a lengthy interview with Alex McArthur, the VP of Search at OrangeSoda—a company which specializes in Search Engine Optimization and web-based marketing, I discovered that figuring out the bottom line is a bit more involved than I originally thought. According to McArthur, “large companies see value in controlling their reputation” with social networking sites. This is much different than the branding strategy a smaller or mid sized company would have for marketing with social networks.

That is assuming you have a strategy at all.

You may be laughing and thinking, “Oh, of course we have a strategy, anything less would be uncivilized!” But the truth is you probably don’t. McArthur went on to say, “more than 90% of companies using social networking sites aren’t using them the right way, they need to have a strategy.”

McArthur has repeatedly seen companies of all sizes who have no clue on how to properly utilize their social networking marketing campaign. In the interview McArthur hammered me on the idea that companies need to understand how social networks work. You can’t just make a page and expect people to suddenly flock to your product.

Comcast is an example McArthur used of how large companies are keeping clients happy by using social networking. Comcast is using Twitter to reach out and tell their subscribers what is being broadcasted across their networks. They have around 2,000 followers who receive Comcast’s “tweets” and, in return, they let Comcast know what it’s doing well, and where they can improve upon their products and services.

Of course, there aren’t only large companies out there utilizing social network sites to get the word out. Small and mid-size companies are the companies that have the most to gain from social networking but usually don’t have a “team” to focus primarily on social network marketing. These are the companies that must stick to McArthur’s 3 simple rules to have a successful social network marketing strategy:

1. Only publish original and creative content

2. Understand the distribution methods – How these social networking sites work

3. Stay consistent and don’t give up – Make a 30 minute commitment to social networking sites everyday.

At this point it’s unthinkable that social networking sites are going to go away.

Case in point; the latest event to strike Iran is this election “situation”, and ironically Twitter is in the middle of it. Twitter refused to shut down for maintenance because it is the only communicative outlet the Iranian people have since the government has decided to censor many Iranian bloggers, and telephone calls.

If you’re still curious about how to incorporate the latest phenomena of the digital age, check out the BlogWell Council’s presentation: How Big Brands Use Social Media. The event will be in San Francisco on June 23 from 1-5 pm. There will be 8 case studies presented from Dell, Intuit, SAP, Kaiser Permanente, Cisco, Wells Fargo and Pepsi.