Prime Edition

Professional networking is new social platform rage
SATARUPA PAUL  7th Aug 2011

Illustration by Rashmi Gupta | Dev Kabir Malik Design

ttam Sinha is a freelance artist who, until a year ago, garnered most of his assignments through acquaintances and word of mouth. For him, social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook were only meant for catching up with friends, updating photos and whiling away spare time. "I had a profile on LinkedIn as well, but its drab interface seldom prompted me to use it efficiently for sourcing professional contacts. It was too straitjacket, appealing mostly to hardcore professionals," Sinha says. However, with the launch of Facebook for Business a week ago, freelancers like Sinha, as well as start-ups and small enterprises, can now use the familiar tools of social networking for professional gain.

The new web page, facebook.com/business, offers a step-by-step guide on how to create a profile for your venture, post advertisements targeting people by age, location, interests, etc., and incorporate relevant plug-ins and apps to the page. It also helps you build a community of your fans and draw in potential customers in the process. "Facebook allows small businesses to create rich social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful type of marketing — word of mouth. We created facebook.com/business to make it even easier for people to reach these objectives and grow," Kumiko Hidak, Manager, Global Communications, Facebook told Guardian20. Advertised as a 'new online education centre for small businesses', it allows business owners to learn the best practices for engaging customers in a two-way conversation to answer questions, get valuable feedback and to reach their friends. Hidak adds, "Businesses can learn how to find new customers and bring them from the Web into their stores."

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Networking through such platforms helps to showcase yourself  better, plus you can publicise your knowledge on a particular subject by way of daily conversation. What LinkedIn started, is now being dissipated to your regular social networks.

This new initiative comes at a time when Google is beginning to close all company profiles on its Google+ social network. According to media reports, the search engine giant said that it is restricting Google+ access only to individual users because of company policy. However, Google refused to comment further. "Google+ is still in its trial phase and the company is not open to remarking on it yet," it said. Even as it struggles to sort out the creases, hundreds of individuals join the network daily and add contacts to their professional circles.

Sanjukta Basu, a social media consultant, seeks to explain this increasing shift in interest to professional networking. "Social networking started off as a fun activity. Soon people began realising its potential in swaying mass opinion and they started exploring it to promote their own interests. Networking through such platforms helps to showcase yourself better, plus you can publicise your knowledge on a particular subject by way of daily conversation. What LinkedIn started, is now being dissipated to your regular social networks."

With more than a 100 million members, LinkedIn undoubtedly takes the cake when it comes to professional networking. Its sole mission of 'connecting the world's professionals to make them more successful and productive', allows it to deliver unique values to professional users ranging from business development professionals to recruiters to job seekers. "Professionals are fast realising the value of such networks. These can be very effective platforms for career development if leveraged appropriately," says Hari Krishnan, country manager at LinkedIn India. To ease the process of job hunting, the company has introduced a new plug-in called 'Apply with LinkedIn' that enables job seekers to submit their LinkedIn profiles for job opportunities on an employer's website. "Apply with LinkedIn will enable one-click access for professionals to jobs and will also empower companies with information to validate an applicant's identity," Krishnan said.

While its no-nonsense look could be a setback for more artistic minds like Sinha, most other professionals swear by it. Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe, says, "Professional networking is becoming a huge phenomenon. Although social networks are incorporating elements of professional networking, my favourite still remains LinkedIn. It just works."

 
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