Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Social Networks

Today I was asked if I knew of any networking Internet sites for small business. I tend to see those geared specifically to a particular industry but I thought, there must be some tools for this sort of thing, after all, people love to get connected. So, I came up with a list of tools, while not specifically geared to business applications, certainly could be. It’s kind of sideways from what I started out looking for, established sites with a ready made group of contributors gathered to broadly discuss issues facing small business owners, but, if you can get a group of people on board, potentially very useful. Of course, they are all only as good/active as their members so I suppose, they are what you make them. Some of these do smack of elitism which is annoying at best. I have no personal experience on any of these sites so if anyone else can vouch for any of these or other sites, feel free. Keep in mind that the oldest and probably best networking opportunities come through professional associations.

Entrepreneur's Organization- New York City Chapter
"Network with the brightest new business minds in New York City"
EO is an entrepreneur network, with over 5,000 members. They have a short registration/application and then will decide whether you "share our membership criteria". Seems small and the goal seems to be to meet in person.

MySpace which has been written about a lot lately, has a group for Business & Entrepreneurs with groups on topics like Small Business Entrepreneurs, Black Business Owners, and Real Estate Networking.

Reconnect with long-lost co-workers
Stay connected to colleagues and clients
List job openings and find high-quality candidates
Get the inside track to the job you want
Open doors and reach millions of professionals
This service offers a way to hook up with like minded business people. It seems to be popular for job search purposes but generally a way to stay connected with people you know as well as their people. Like all of these tools they are only as useful as the people who sign up. A matchmaking service for professionals.

A free service that allows members to join networks and build personal profiles. They have advanced search features for a fee and with more than 250,000 members, you are likely to find someone in your city or industry. I found WAHM or Work-at-Home-Moms_Network, and Indian Professionals Network, just poking around.
“Members get a free networking-oriented home page and can send messages to other members. They can also join special
Networks related to their industry, interests or location. More than 1,000 organizations host Networks on Ryze to help their members interact with each other and grow their organizations.”

Zero Degrees
“Success Through People.
Finally, a networking service that connects you with influential people who can help
your career, business, and personal life.”
“…imagine being able to instantly store your connections in a secure, private
Internet space. Imagine inviting your most trusted friends and colleagues
to join this space, add their own contacts, and connect with you. Then, picture
searching across this extended network for individuals and organizations that
can help you achieve your business, career and personal goals. And,
finally, getting credible introductions to the people you want to meet through
mutual contacts.”

A free community groups based on profession, city, or interest. I noticed there was a group for disgruntled restaurant workers and a pissed off waiters society. Companies adopt a spot here the same way we use an online service for blogging. In fact you can blog from this site, make recommendations, sell stuff and connect.

Friendster seems to be the oldest of the bunch, founded in 2002. It also has by far the greatest number of members, which is the measure of a social networking site.
With fewer features than some of the others, you can still stay in touch and post photos, start a blog, and list events.

“With more than 24 million members, Friendster is the best way to stay in touch
with your friends and it's the fastest way to discover the people and things
that matter to you most. Headquartered in the Bay Area, Friendster aims to
make the world a smaller place by bringing the power of social networking to
every aspect of life, one friend at a time. ”

is one of a handful of sites offering to connect groups of friends. The thing about Orkut is that it is very exclusive in that you have to be invited by someone who is already a member. While not geared to business, it may be able to, as they say “expand the circumference of your social circle” through “communities”. So, potentially there could be a small business community.They say: “We are committed to providing an online meeting place where people can socialize, make new acquaintances and find others who share their interests.”

There's also eConozco, a Spanish language site offering similar features.

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