While the Millennials are known to be completely comfortable with virtual relationships and living out on the web, many of us are finding social network tools to be highly effective at extending our reach from the web to in-person business professional networking and relationship building.
What I find of interest is how the different social networking platforms help in fostering engagement, driving business or new opportunities, and helping with one’s online branding.
Over the past several years I’ve watched the growth of networking tools like Linkedin, Facebook (once the province of only college and then high school kids), and ecademy (UK and European entrepreneurs) grow into an entire ecosphere of social networking tools. Ning exploded a few years ago by providing the ability for anybody to create a social network – a rarity at that time – and there are still some groups using Ning. (First Tuesday DFW is one group using Ning, from which I copied most of my blog post here – since I found that the Ning blog post wasn’t truly “public”, as it claimed).
Now social networking tools are more the “flavor-of-the-day” with numerous new sites launching every week:
- MySpace has faded from its heyday of teen users to tweens into all-but-obscurity.
- Brightfuse shutdown from lack of strong adoption, although it had a clever concept for networking, blogging, portfolios and more; this may have been a marketing issue coupled with inadequate funding.
- Color recently launched to great fanfare and $41M in venture funding, while it’s unclear what business need it addresses.
- Google continues cycling through social networking offerings as it vainly tries to score in a social offering.
- Facebook continues to flourish despite the constant flow of negative news regarding their flagrant disregard of users’ need for clear privacy terms – or even that users own their own photos. Users who “like” a page on Facebook now will get inundated by some brands or news providers, to the point where they can’t even see their friends updates. And, notably, even tech-savvy users have trouble keeping up with Facebook’s churn on security settings.
- Linkedin has grown phenomenally, yet is difficult to navigate and use, suffering from some possible application/database and infrastructure architectural issues, manifested by difficulty in finding specific information or functions and horrid response time.
But all social networking tools that address real business needs will continue to grow if they market themselves to their target population and keep apace with evolving technologies. And how a business – or business professional – chooses to leverage the professional networking tools and sites can be a competitive advantage.
Very recently I’ve watched Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com, and now Punchbowl.com all going after networking and other types of meetings and celebrations, while Linkedin and Facebook continue to promote their own networking and events/happenings.
What I find intriguing about Meetup, Eventbrite, and Punchbowl, given that they’re all relatively newer tools, are the differing approaches used – from creating an account to what they provide and support for their users’ profiles.
Meetup has begun modifying their site to support better social networking, including supporting logging in – or creating an account – using Facebook’s open ID; notably, they haven’t incorporated the same functionality using Twitter’s OAuth. Meetup has also added a few networking/blogging sites which a Meetup user can add to their profile, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Linkedin, and Tumblr. Interestingly, they don’t support any of the large, growing number of other sites, including Posterous, Amplify, Xing, Google, etc. While I find Meetup interesting, I’ve not found it especially useful – having been inundated by meetups going on everywhere. Having just tuned my profile on Meetup, I’ll be interested in seeing if I receive a Google Alert soon. [Note: As of 12 hours later, no Alert. So much for SEO on Meetup.com at this date.]
My most recent discovery, prompted by an Addison, Texas, networking group, is Punchbowl. Interestingly, Punchbowl already supports a user’s Twitter feed and website URL, along with the ability to share that profile on other sites. From a branding perspective, though, I’m a bit confused since thus far Punchbowl seems to be taking a more personal, party approach with a “Party Identity” – I don’t know that I’d recommend that for any business professional. I’ve used Punchbowl only for this one networking event so far – but, surprisingly, found that their SEO is very spot-on: Within 5 minutes of creating my profile I received a Google Alerts hit on my name. Now THAT is special – for SEO! I like a lot about this site, but haven’t found many business events on it. Given what they’ve done with their SEO and feeds, I’ll be watching them closely. If they decide to get clear on their purpose/mission and move towards supporting business pros more than “parties”, they could be a competitor.
The site I’ve found most useful for business networking events this year has been Eventbrite. They provide little for social networking other than Twitter and Facebook integration, wherein, for example, you can share an event you’re attending on either site. As of this writing, there’s no Twitter OAuth or Facebook for logging in. There’s no real profile building or sharing. But they support tickets and payments for tickets for events; they’ve integrated maps; and they have the potential to do a lot with the people attending the events via the basic Facebook integration: You can see what your friends are attending and/or recommending.
If I’m going to host a professional event, I’d probably look very hard at Eventbrite as my social web tool of choice for event management at this time.
But as a business professional, I like what the other two social networking and business event websites provide in supporting my branding and networking – extending my virtual presence into real-world meetings and networking.
[Posted originally on First Tuesday's Ning network group.]