Getting the most out of business oriented social networking services LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo and Neurona

In just a few years, businesses oriented social networking websites have taken off. The industry leader, LinkedIn, counts more than 10 million members despite only being available in English.

To take advantage of a professional social networking web service, a user completes a professional profile and invites professional contacts to connect to the profile. Most sites, with differing degrees of success, offer the possibility to upload contacts from an email system and/or a file of contacts.

Who should insert a profile?

Professionals seeking career opportunities, consulting offers and business deals have everything to gain from the visibility a profile in a business oriented social networking site offers. Most services offer a basic profile and set of features free of charge. The real cost is the time it takes to fill out and maintain a profile.

Who consults business oriented social networking sites?

Business focused social networks offer very interesting user demographics: internet savvy professionals interested in connecting with other professionals. Empirical evidence suggests human resource recruiters are among the most active consumers of social networking services. The services are also used to varying degrees as a platform to market professional services and to seek suppliers.

Search engine marketing opportunities with social networking sites.

A profile in a businesses oriented social networking site can be a great tool for discovering new career and businesses opportunities. It can be also be an excellent tool for increasing visibility in Search Engines. Many (but not all!) of the social networking sites have worked hard to ensure their member’s public profiles are optimized for search engines.

Search engine optimized profiles bring several benefits to social network members. As you control your profile, you control the content of one of the listings which potentially appears in search engine results for your name or company. If your public profile contains a link to your website, you may benefit from the authority an established business oriented social networking site has with Google and the other search engines.

Selecting the social networks in which to participate.

Key considerations include:

  1. number of members
  2. target market penetration for a country and industry
  3. local language support
  4. external contacts import and management capabilities
  5. profile visibility in search engines
  6. time available to insert and maintain a profile.

Top International Businesses Social Networking Websites

eConozcoSpain (owned by Xing)2003150,000+Spanish
NeuronaSpain2003850,000+English, Italian, Spanish. Update: Neurona was merged into Xing on March 31, 2008.
Social Business ClubGermany2005?English, German
Viadeo (ex Viaduc)France20031,000,000+English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish. Chinese
is forthcoming.
Visible PathUSA2007English
Xing (ex OpenBC)Germany20032,000,000+Chinese, Deutsch, English, Español, Français, Italiano, Japanese, Korean, Magyar, Nederlands, Polski, Português, Russian, Suomi, Svenska, Türkçe

3 Key tips for your professional profile

  1. Enter all e-mail addresses you’ve ever used. This is how most systems allow contacts to find you. Some systems may require you to validate your current access to an e-mail address.
  2. Complete your profile as much as possible. This shows discipline and dedication as well as providing more information for search engines and those who consult your profile.
  3. Add websites you’re connected to, such as your company or blog. Change the display text from “Company Website” or similar to the name of your company. Include one or two words to describe the company’s products or services, if not already part of the company name. This is an example in LinkedIn: LinkedIn Profile Website Edit Example

Comparison with business directories

Many sites focus on providing individual business contacts and company information. Although these sites don’t offer the extensive networking functionality of social networking sites, they are an important consideration for online reputation management as well as providing access to potentially valuable sales leads. Some of these directories may morph into business oriented social networking services in the future; Ziggs is already on the way with its hubs functionality.

Established business directories which include individual profiles include:

  • Jigsaw‘s primary goal is to facilitate a direct contact with decision makers – skipping voice menus and secretaries. Encourages users to contribute all their contacts to the system, without their contact’s consent, raising ethical concerns about privacy. Currently limited to English speaking countries
  • Spoke is an online prospect database. Counts 35 million+ profiles. Appears to be similar to Jigsaw. Evaluation limited to Windows users.
  • Ziggs, a modern day who’s who, allows users to build a professional online reputation by inserting content rich profiles. Allows contacts to import from multiple sources. Supports public and private groups.
  • ZoomInfo counts almost 36 million profiles, mostly extracted automatically from the web.

Clouds on the horizon for online social networking?

Several issues confront the professional online networking industry as it matures. The first problem is a proliferation of platforms, offering similar functionality, at least for European users. Most professionals have limited time, leading to hard choices: where should I be present and to what degree will I complete and maintain my profile?.

A second problem facing online professional networking services is the inevitable conflict between quality and quantity as members accept invitations from people they’ve never met or barely know. Just because two people are connected, doesn’t mean they really know each other. Neurona does allow a user to specify a level of trust with their connections, but it is not clear that this is used in any way.

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About Sean Carlos

Sean Carlos is a digital marketing consultant & teacher, assisting companies with their Search (SEO + SEA = SEM), Social Media & Digital Media Analytics strategies. Sean first worked with text indexing in 1990 in a project for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since then he worked for Hewlett-Packard Consulting and later as IT Manager of a real estate website before founding Antezeta in 2006. Sean is an official instructor of the Digital Analytics Association and collaborates with the Bocconi University. He is Chairman of the SMX Search and Social Media Conference, 12 & 13 November in Milan. He is also a co-author of the Treccani encyclopedic dictionary of computer science, ICT & digital media. Born in Providence, RI, USA, Sean received Honors in Physics from Bates College, Maine. He speaks English, Italian and German.