Clients have been asking about social networking. They ask: “Can you create me a page on Facebook?”, “How will social networking help my business?” and one client even asked for training on how to get started with social networking. In order to better help my clients, I did a little research…

What is Social Networking?
Social networking is the grouping of individuals into specific groups, like small rural communities or a neighborhood subdivision. Social networking websites function like an online community of Internet users. Depending on the website in question, many of these online community members share a common interest such as hobbies, religion, or politics. Once you are granted access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them.

Why Use Social Networking for your Business? While many people regard social networking tools as a fun diversion, some companies are leveraging them to accomplish goals, such as increasing their visibility, helping constituents find jobs, and raising awareness about time-sensitive issues. Social networking sites have been the rage of the tech industry for more than a year. Following investments by Microsoft and News Corp., the companies are valued in the billions of dollars and are considered blueprints for how to build a website. Yet a deeper question lingers: How are they going to consistently produce profits to match their soaring valuations?

Social networks present an enormous opportunity — maybe the biggest in tech since e-mail. The sites have simplified and amplified connections between people online, creating a thriving ecosystem of small programs that let friends interact through games, greetings, video clips and more. Social networks are the latest iteration of the Web economy.

But unlike e-commerce sites and search engines, they offer a more intimate setting for friends to share information. It is also conceivable that social networking, like e-mail, will never make piles of cash, but will be a new way of communicating. Where services such as Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook have been successful bringing friends, singles, and groups together based on affinity and mutual interests, business-networking services are now offering a parallel experience in the professional world. This use of online, friend/associate-based networking will prove to be one of the most valuable business tools the Internet has yet provided, says Michael Jones, President of Userplane.

Often, the key to using a business network successfully involves the creation of your personal friends — or business connections — group. The registration process is similar across the various social networking websites.

Overview of a Couple Business Related Social Networking Sites

  • LinkedIn, a Job Search Engine with a Social Networking Twist Unlike many of the best-known social networking sites, LinkedIn focuses primarily on creating and maintaining professional contacts. You can use the site to touch base with former coworkers and classmates, find people employed in the nonprofit sector, and obtain professional references.

    The site, currently boasting 5.5 million users, supports the creation of groups, and has a dedicated category for nonprofits. LinkedIn offers plenty of resources for hiring employees, consultants, or service providers. What it doesn’t offer are discussions or forums, so if you’re looking to chat or talk about a specific topic, you’ll have to do that via email or instant messaging or using a different social networking application.

    For more information, read 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn by Mario Sundar

  • Smaller Indiana, Local Online Community making Offline Connections Smaller Indiana makes creative people and innovative ideas easier to find. This is the place for you to share your ideas and engage with Indiana’s most creative and inspired souls…working together to build community, culture and commerce. The biggest distinction from other social networks, like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, is that Smaller Indiana is local.

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