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Social networking for business pros

Social networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Connexion, Twitter, Facebook and the like have created a new venue for the social scene, but is this venue a good locale for business users to network and generate new business leads?

Social networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Connexion, Twitter, Facebook and the like have created a new venue for the social scene, but is this venue a good locale for business users to network and generate new business leads? Some say it depends on your age. For instance, 20-somethings -- who've virtually grown up using consumer-centric social sites regularly to find dates and share blogs, pictures, music and videos -- are more likely to leverage these sites as a business tool to merge their social network with their professional network. However, that's not to say that social media is limited to any particular demographic.

"Enterprises are increasingly using community solutions to transform their business processes because online communities are so efficient at sharing and prioritizing information," said Rachel Happe, research manager at IDC. "Companies that foster business communities will realize both competitive and cost advantages."

Networking services such as LinkedIn are bringing social networking to business users. LinkedIn launched in 2003 and is designed to grow professional referrals and interactive exchanges with colleagues. With LinkedIn, members submit contacts and invite friends and associates into their loop. Members can then tap into a database of new business contacts that are nested within their contacts' circle of friends/contacts.

Leveraging LinkedIn -- which has more than 10 million users -- with your professional networking strategy could pay off, particularly if you're seeking new talent. LinkedIn has secured more than 350 corporations paying upward of $250,000 each to advertise job postings.

Orkut, Google's version of the social network, has been slower to gain traction among business users in the U.S. To make the service more appealing to a broad range of users, Orkut recently made its software code available to outside programmers. This move will enable independent developers to create new applications limited only by the developer's imagination – new applications Google hopes will boost usage.

KnowledgePlanet and Shared Insights recently merged to form Mzinga, another business networking service aimed at helping the business community capitalize on the benefits of online networking. The company is structured around a strategy it has dubbed "crowdsourcing." Simply put, people who work together can be more innovative and productive than an individual.

Mzinga is the Swahili word for "beehive," which makes sense given the company's take on social networking. Within a beehive lies a flurry of energy and productivity, but unless you know how to navigate and work within the hive, you're going to get stung. Mzinga not only offers a place for business professionals to interact with one another, it provides members online community management.

Is your company using a networking service to generate new leads and ideas or as a recruiting tool? If so, we'd love to hear about it. Please send your comments and stories to the editors of SearchVoIP.com.

Related links:
Blog: Social networking principle 1: An introduction is an endorsement

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