Social networking sites certainly give companies the opportunity to build strong relationships with their clients, but now they’re also encouraging users to network online. Some Web-savvy professionals are forgoing traditional networking events and using the sites to show off their business prowess, resulting to client leads and even career advancement.
LinkedIn is a social networking site similar to Facebook with one key difference: most users are business professionals looking to expand their network. Users link to each other’s profiles which contain their work history and areas of expertise – basically, it’s their résumé. Amy Good, who works with Urban League of Greater Madison and Angel’s Wish, says that LinkedIn allows her to keep her professional connections active. “You can update your status and let people know what projects you are working on.”
One of LinkedIn’s unique benefits is a question and answer forum, open to users who need advice on a professional issue. The questions are answered by other LinkedIn members and forum readers can rate the quality of the answers. This gives users an opportunity to position themselves as experts in their field. Those with consistent high ratings on their answers can highlight the achievement in their profiles.
The site can also extend networking opportunities online after an event. Yahara Software hosts High Tech Happy Hour, a monthly gathering bringing together people in the technology community. Principal Bob Vanden Burgt uses LinkedIn to “facilitate more post-event follow up, collaboration and networking” between the people who attend the event.
Yahara Software also uses LinkedIn’s networking features to recruit qualified professionals. “If we’re looking for software developers, it’s pretty easy to search on LinkedIn to find out who you know that might know someone who can help,” explains Vanden Burgt.
And if you’re searching for a new career opportunity, don’t undervalue the power of blogs. These online soapboxes are still an excellent way for individuals to reach out to a wide audience and gain trust with the market and establish credibility in a chosen field, explains Jeff Muendel, online marketing analyst with Netconcepts.
While social networking tools cannot replace the types of relationships that are built when businesses and customers meet face-to-face, they are quickly become equally as important. As Good says, you never know when an “introductions online can lead to something in person.”