Networking 2.0 – Open Source, Open Rolodex

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The media recently have been covering the use of social and professional networking sites as the newest career tool.  We’ve all heard of them and been invited to join by their members– Xing, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, the list goes on.  The use of these sites has exploded—FaceBook has over 39 million active members, LinkedIn boasts over 14 million networked users and MySpace has a staggering 200 million users. Anyone who has been in marketing for more than five minutes would likely tell you that a person’s network is one of their most valuable assets. But the Rolodex could never work for you and build on itself with the ease of online professional networking.    

LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook by adding pictures to a person’s profile, and hinting at opening up their APIs for others to develop companion applications, while FaceBook has become more like LinkedIn by positioning themselves as the anti-MySpace and by opening the network last year to non-students.   

The Next Wave

But Web 2.0 answers the confusion with another solution. The industry-specific networking site. I spoke with Dominic Bignall, founder of mvolve, an “alpha-stage” professional forum for a specific vertical- the mobile industry. Mvolve, set to launch in November 2007, seeks to bring the idea of connecting with colleagues a step further.   “If you are looking for  social networking—you want Facebook.  If you are looking for networks in your industry, you will need an industry-specific site.”  

They differentiate from LinkedIn by offering a forum in specific industries, (and will soon build partnerships for sites in other industries) by adding functionality to promote one’s company, and opening up the network for members to freely contact one another.  “It should be more relevant,” Bignall adds. “And LinkedIn doesn’t give people the forum to get the message out—that won’t be a problem with us.  If they want to promote themselves—we will have the tools to do that.”   Members will have the capability to install contact filters similar to Facebook, but is gambling the more open network idea will work by sticking to a smaller industry group.   

Who’s been looking at my contacts?

As an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal pointed out, others are using your network, too.  Potential employers or recruiters may use your connections to check up on you.  Depending on your profile settings, others can browse your connections to see who else is connected to you.   

But before sounding the privacy alarm, is this a bad thing?  Well, if your network is comprised of people you don’t know, it could backfire.  Our advice- stick to people you know, or at least had contact with and can recall who you are.  Your stronger more well-known contacts serve as your base and can vouch for you if asked. 

Professional networking groups have been around as long as the corporation, but today, professionals have a new way to connect with people that the rolodex couldn’t provide.  Then again, your rolodex was never published and distributed to your network before, either. 

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