Networking has mattered since the dawn of business. Nobody's going to deny that.
But never has there been such ample opportunity to network as now, with so many high-tech social networks rampant on the internet. It's become a case of "too much of a good thing"—there's too many social networks. For that reason, many people avoid them altogether. This is a mistake. There are many benefits to engaging in these websites: besides personal uses like finding old friends, their professional uses are plentiful. It makes it easy to stay connected to seldom-seen business acquaintances, helps develop new business relationships, and makes your presence (as either an individual or an organization) better known publicly.
Yet, any successful business knows the importance of efficiency. Wasting time is not an option for many tight-budgeted startups, and it's definitely not the preferred route to walk even for larger firms that can experiment on trial and error. Techvibes has begun to assemble four lists: The Best Social Networking Sites, The Worst Social Networking Sites, The Downright Awful Networking Sites, and Sites That Will Maximise Your Online Networking. Here, in Part 1 of the series, we begin with the best.
To view the list, click to read on.
The Best Social Networking Sites
These, friends, are the best social networking sites on the internet today. They're so top-of-the-line, you can fully engage yourself in all of them—without over-extending yourself or your company—but take a look at each one's specific features and strengths, only immerse in the ones you believe will be truly useful. (To add to that, go beyond these words and test them out if you haven't already. Dig around for some opinions on the internal niches.) Do note, though, it's more beneficial to put in the time and effort with these three than thrice as many other sites that just don't carry value. And remember that there is little point in signing up for any, or too many, without the intent to maintain an active account or profile. Abandoned or half-assed accounts erode professional reputations.
You will have all heard of these, but may have been antsy about diving into one or two. See below why they're all likely to be solid ROIs.
1. Twitter. The essence of social networking online is the ability to reach both large audiences, and tight-knight communities, as suits one's needs. Twitter does both amazingly: You can manage multiple niche accounts that branch out from your main account, allowing you to send streams to different target demographics cleanly. And everything about Twitter is simple, from its interface to 140-character content snippets you send and receive. Plus, there are hundreds of apps that cover every facet of Twitter, allowing you to supercharge your Twitter experience with all sorts of enhancements. And if you're thinking Twitter is a fad, as I've heard so many doubters say for so long, swallow these numbers: by the end of 2007, roughly 500,000 tweets per quarter (three months) were posted. By the end of 2008, 100,000,000 tweets per quarter were posted. By the end of 2009, 2 billion (I won't dare type that number out!) tweets per quarter were posted. In the first quarter of 2010, 4 billion tweets per quarter were posted. (Note the last one isn't a year lapse... it's the very next quarter, and still doubled, despite now entering the billions.)
2. LinkedIn. This one is probably the most obvious for professional networkers, and it's easy to know why. LinkedIn is all about putting your professional profile online. It's the most business-oriented social network out there that also boasts a significant population (nearly 70 million registered users since its inception in 2003). In a nutshell, it's a giant database of resumes, all under the same format, making it easy to search, filter, analyze, and identify. It's a great way to have the internet explain your career path to acquaintances and new clients without going over the story yourself every time. And it's a great way to connect with like-minded, or intriguingly contrasting, professional individuals or organizations. (Companies can also have LinkedIn profiles in addition to individuals.)
3. Facebook. What, Facebook? Home of the I'm-drunk-at-a-house-party photo albums? Home of the mundane, every-5-minute statuses ("Walter is eating coco puffs for breakfast")? Home of the ridiculously unintelligent pages ("I just farted in class I feel so 囧," "if Justin bieber was Super Mario he would look like this. LOL") which hundreds of thousands of people actually "Like"?
Ignore the personal side - that's how you meet up with old friends, but it's not how you drive sales and network with customers. Facebook's business side integrates networking with marketing. It allows you to create Pages and Groups, which enable you to essentially create a sublet of your website under the Facebook domain. Advantages? Plenty. People can "Like" your page or join your group, and, pending your settings, offer comments - which you can then use as testimonials, or observe patterns to see what your customers are and are not satisfied with. And it helps to be a part of a site that boasts over 400 million members and growing, all across the globe - there is massive potential for thousands upon thousands of people to check out your business that they may never have stumbled upon otherwise. Plus, you can reach out to your customers on a very personal level, and with photo, video, and music integrations, the creative possibilities in marketing and networking your Facebook presence are endless.
You can also create private groups for already established networks, and maintain it as a way for everyone to keep in touch. It's more interactive and centralized than email communication. I can go on, but I'll lastly mention events, another great networking tool on Facebook that makes it easy to raise awareness about your events and also gauge people's interest. It's the perfect way to stage in-person networking events and take business relationships to the next level. (Events can also be privatized.)
Oh, and on the marketing front, Facebook also has a fairly sophisticated advert system in place, similar to Google ads. It's worth a look.
Honourable Mention: Meetup. Founded in 2001, Meetup has been gaining substantial popularity, and it deserves it. The website is based on creating, organizing, and facilitating offline groups, meetings, and events. Naturally, this is an excellent way to gather a crowd for face-to-face networking. Use it seamlessly with Facebook's event features to reach your maximum demographic range. And, when no one's looking, get some strangers together for that Friday Night Uno Tournament you've been dying to host.
Part 2 will cover the worst social networking websites. Do you have a least favourite? Comment below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.