One of my favorite things about Twitter is how people can use it to live-blog conferences they're attending. Case in point: today, I've been watching Joseph Thornley, provide live commentary from the Canadian Institute Conference on Social Media. I've been learning about how the City of Calgary manages social media tools for employee recruitment and retention. That's right, retention.

Some nuggets from the conference:

"Social media must be part of a larger strategy to get the most value from it. It should not stand isolated on its own."

"If you have employees who waste time on Facebook, it's a management problem, not a social media problem"

"The City of Calgary's first pilot in social media had a budget of $50."

Many companies dismiss social media tools as a waste of time, or as downright voodoo. The fact is, when used wisely, it's a great way for companies to connect with customers and even employees. Beyond simply using social media at the macro level, it's also important to trust and empower your employees to use them as well. Not every company lends itself to the concept, of course, but the majority do -- especially those with a public face.

I recently had occasion to speak to a management-level employee of Verizon about the company's customer service program. He detailed the various ways he and his department are trying to keep customers happy, including distributing the cell numbers of field technicians. It sounded good, but when I asked if anyone had considered using Twitter in the same way that Comcast does</a>, the response I got was, "What's Twitter?"

Apparently Verizon still has a lot to learn about using social media tools to its advantage.

What most impressed me about the comments Thornley was passing along on today on Twitter was the City of Calgary's willingness to give employees access to Facebook and other social networking Web sites. To do so implies you trust your staff not to abuse the privilege and, really, if the trust doesn't exist then you've got some hiring issues to correct.

I was quite glad to see that the City of Calgary "gets" this new-fangled social media thing, but I can't imagine it's the only agency that does. Do you let your staff access Web sites like Facebook? How's that working out for you?