If you are not already a member of an online social network, the time is now. But, as online social networks increasingly become the communication means of millions of global professionals it is important to know which sites are worthy of your time and how to best utilize them.
(♦♦♦♦)Linkedin.com: If you're not already a member of an online social network, I recommend starting small. There are fewer people on LinkedIn than other social networking conglomerates such as MySpace but they are the right people, testing true the mantra of quality vs. quantity. Linkedin.com is one of the most widely accepted sites by professionals of all generations and industries, and hosts an international network of 30 million professionals in 150+ industries as the 164th most visited website in the world.
Linkedin allows you to create a profile with your work history, skill set, intentions, interests, etc. in order to help establish your “connections” with similar working professionals in your industry. This site is designed not only to help job seekers make contacts but most importantly to help professionals enhance their careers through industry networking opportunities, recommendations and group discussion.
Linkedin enables users to view any other members who are within three degrees of separation from each other on their respective social graphs adding to the business value and networking power of the site. Linkedin recently launched a new application server to enhance user experience through group discussion forums, Slideshare presentation functionality, polls, wikis and advanced company search capabilities.
Important features to take advantage of:
- Answers: This valuable section of LinkedIn allows users to ask/answer career-related questions in a variety of industry categories and position yourself as a LinkedIn Expert within your field. This function helps build your visibility within your industry as well as receive feedback from other industry experts.
- Network Referrals: When you discover profiles within your three degrees of separation, members can then ask their own contacts to forward a request across the social graph to share opportunities or ask questions. This feature is maintained as a useful resource by LinkedIn who limits the number of network referrals you can extend at any one time.
- OpenLink and InMail: Both tightly controlled messaging features that allow members to communicate with potential industry contacts who are out of their own personal network.
Similar business network sites:
- (♦♦)Ecademy – business networking site with 150,000 members worldwide. Strong international focus, good for business with the UK as 60% of members reside in Great Britain. Platform includes blog capabilities, marketplace listings, news feeds, events, etc. Ecademy includes a free basic membership and a paid premier membership to create clubs, conduct private meetings and personal business introductions.
- (♦)Ryze – business networking site hosting 250,000 members with 49% from U.S and 21% from India. Site allows for industry groups and advanced search functionality.
(♦♦♦) Facebook: With 150 million current users, Facebook’s popularity has exploded over the past two years when it opened membership to everyone, not just college students. This site allows for 5,000 mini applications to make your experience more helpful and entertaining. Facebook runs a mini feed to all your “friends” of any activity you perform on the site whether it is what you’re doing, what personal or job information you have updated, etc which can be altered through intense privacy settings if you can remember to set them.
This function may prove helpful if the rumors are true that Facebook will soon allow its users to separate their personal and professional relationships. Using Facebook’s powerful platform and extensive user database to help career development may eventually make Facebook an important professional resource…but for now it is a good place to stay in touch with friends and contacts.
Similar social networking sites:
- (♦)MySpace: 200 million users but mainly between the ages of 14-30. Many tools for self-expression but not much to help your career here.
- (♦)Friendster: With 48 million users this was one of the first big social networks but failed to adapt to changing network platforms. Won’t do much for your career…better luck finding a date than a job on this social site.
- (♦♦♦) StumbleUpon and Digg: Both are web browser plugins that allows internet users to rate web pages, news stories, photos, videos, blogs, etc. and serves as a personal recommendation engine. StumbleUpon and Digg allow users to search for the hottest and most recommended web content in advanced categories. This will prove helpful to stay on top of your industry if the material being recommended is worthy. If you are in a smaller, niche market, it may be hard to use these tools to your advantage.
- (♦♦) Delicious (formerly Del.i.cious): Delicious is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and exploring web bookmarks. The site has more than five million users and 150 million bookmarked URLs. It uses a classification system where users can tag content with indexed terms. May prove helpful if there is an extensive bookmarked library on your search topic.
- (♦) Twitter: Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to post 140-character messages at a time that can be read by members in their network, called “followers.” Some use Twitter messages, strangely referred to as “Tweets,” to broadcast their location or status on a project. Some job seekers and professionals utilize Twitter as a self-promotion tool. Twitter is not the most helpful to your career unless you are following feeds from industry leaders or experts and in that case, can any useful information really be condensed into a 140-character tweet? Doubtful.
Digital Address Book:
(♦♦♦) Plaxo: Plaxo.com provides an online address book of your contacts that automatically updates information in one central location when changes are made within your contact list. Plaxo also synchs up to most email servers and web applications. This site is the Web 2.0 version of the rolodex...a good resource.