Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Serious Networking

Besides buzzing social networking sites, there is a segment that’s quietly growing and becoming popular -- the professional networking sites. It’s a platform that shares characteristics with social media but conversations are serious academic and business issues,

“Are you on LinkedIn?” is a common question. One of the answers is: “Well, I am; but not so much into it. By the way, is it like Facebook?”

In a way, it’s: the Facebook of professional networking. With 135 million members worldwide and 12 million in India, it’s huge database of employees. With LinkedIn recently opening an R and D centre in Bangalore, the focus on India is bound to Increase. It also sees India as region where it can grow exponentially.

Since a full profile is important to make LinkedIn work well (by getting the right contacts and networks), many see it as a job portal. Though it does help in career advancement, the site is much more.

There are many interesting features, like Answers -- where questions can be asked and answered. Users can post questions related to any subject. Queries could be like: “What are the options available to control high inflation in India?” “What are the terms and conditions for health insurance in India?” Specific queries stand better chances of getting accurate answers. And, answers could come from anyone in the world. Users can also showcase their expertise by answering others’ questions. The section can be searched in-depth with key words.

Another feature that works well is Groups. It’s like other online communities, Yahoo! Group or Google  Group, but the difference here is the members are a niche crowd, and conversations are serious and targeted. Users can discover the popular talk points in their industry, follow views of influential people and even win their attention by taking part in the conversation.

There are company pages on LinkedIn. For members, it's a great way to research companies, see what kind of people work there, and even review the company products and services that are used. For companies, it provides a peek into the individuals behind the brand and highlight how members use your products.

There are other similar networks. Six or seven years back, Ryze was very popular in India. Besides LinkedIn, Apna Circle and Silicon India are networks that are popular. They work much the same way, but with different focus areas.

(This article was published in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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