But it's a darn good tool to have in your arsenal.

Terrance Barkan, on ASAE Collaborate, and on various LinkedIn groups, wonders why association professionals are going to such great lengths to determine the effectiveness of social media before using it.

Perhaps that's because it has been hyped so much that decision-makers are hesitant to dump their other marketing vehicles and gamble on what they've been led to believe will be huge returns from social media.

Well, they shouldn't dump anything. Social media adds to the marketing mix, it doesn't replace everything in it. It provides opportunities for interaction that did not exist in the past.

For example, gobs of your members and prospects may be at a party in a place called Facebook (or another site). They've chosen to be there (you didn't tell them to be there) and they value the connections they are making there.

If you attend the party, too, you can talk with them, recruit them, and communicate in ways you think may be useful. Being there makes you more credible. You don't have to embrace the concept of the party site. You have to exploit it.

It's like mingling at a cocktail party or campaigning for votes at a crowded bus stop. You are fishing where the fishes are. And, very often, they are on social media sites.

So, add social media to your marketing strategy and get help from experts so you don't have to learn everything yourself.

Fit it into a plan that may already include direct mail, e-blasts, blogging, and other promotional activities. Keep your web site up-to-date and connect with your audiences where they are and in the way(s) they want to connect.

Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal, but don't rely on just one.