The whole discussion of whether or not social media outlets can effectively be monetized isn’t at all surprising to me. For as long as there has been advertising on blogs and other platforms there’s been a conversation about what it’s value is to the audience, to the advertiser and to the publisher. What does seem to be surprising, to me at least, is that the root cause of this conversation often goes unspoken.

There’s so much hand-wringing over whether or not social media can be monetized because the online media world is the first time actual metrics were demanded to account for an ads success.

Traditional media touted its reach and sold ad inventory based on that reach. But online media had to wait to get paid for the most part until the ads it sold actually performed and then had to justify its methodology for counting visitors, clicks or whatever else it was providing to advertisers.

Even among the biggest, most savvy players, effectively making money on advertising against social media is a tricky proposition. Just look at Google’s problems selling inventory on MySpace’s search functionality, though that effort may be hampered by both the fact that Google caught that deal just as MySpace was beginning to lose it’s luster and the fact that it’s search function stinks (at least it always did for me).

Both Kami Huyse and David Armano have thoughts up on how advertising on social media channels is just as disruptive to the audience as on traditional channels and that’s true. That’s why, as Kami says, effective public relations efforts are more essential than ever. Part of that is through our efforts to position our clients as participants in the conversation, something that is as non-disruptive as possible and even has the potential (if they listen to our guidance and resist the urge to engage in outright marketing) to add value to that community’s conversation.

That’s especially likely true if they drop some of their guarded nature and engage in Jeremiah Owyang’s three “impossible” conversations in an open and honest manner. After all there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the people who have the most problems with your company. If you’re not listening to them and addressing their concerns then you’re effectively writing off them as customers, and that’s something not many companies can afford to do.

And if you or your clients are doing social media wrong or if there’s some sort of inconsistency in efforts there will always be someone there to call you on it.

Yes, social media can be distracting, but that distraction is worth it when you consider that it also creates this sort of ongoing industry conference that everyone can attend because you don’t have to travel and all you need is the ability to sign up at Social media turns the entire Internet into a help line, where colleagues can ping each other for advice, help noodling out an issue or just to make each other laugh, just like what often happens at conferences. We’re all attendees and we’re all presenters and all we can hope for is that we make the best impression possible because we respect the opinions of everyone who’s listening to us.

Social media also turns the entire Internet into one big recommendation engine that can drive us to movies, music or other media that we had overlooked, discounted or never heard of. While sites like Netflix, iTunes and others all use our behavior and perceived interests as part of an algorithm, the opinions of those people we respect will always carry more weight because we’re social animals, and we’ll never be able to say “That was an awesome find, thanks for pointing me to it” to a computer and have it say “Glad you liked it!” back to us.

Social media can. It allows for feedback. Feedback for our recommendations, feedback for our ideas, feedback for our opinions and feedback for all our other efforts. Therein lies its power. Not to provide new advertising outlets, but to give us all a voice. The best social media marketers know that and act accordingly.