The Online Networking Phenomenon By: Dakotta J.K. Alex September 2006
“It's not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” Anonymous This statement perhaps sums up the importance of networking. Networking is not a new phenomenon. The trade between ancient civilizations was result of networking between people of those times. However, the dawn of the Internet saw the traditional concept of networking making a flight from the real world into the virtual world. Internet has made networking, ever easier and convenient. Within a click of a mouse, one can reunite with school chummies; get reconnected with old colleagues and what more even find out what happened to one’s ex-flame. The online networking is witnessing a phenomenal growth rate. A survey compiled by comScore Media Metrix revealed that MySpace.com registered a record 50 million visitors in May, whereas YouTube.com saw its traffic double up in a single month. The stupendous growth in online networking is also confirmed by a study carried out by Nielson/NetRatings. The study showed that the top social networking sites had registered a growth rate of 47%. For more sites, you can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites So what is online networking all about? Online networking refers to the mutual exchange of information, knowledge, facts, etc among people through chats, forums and groups that are hosted in the virtual world. The networking phenomenon started with Plato. It provided the first instant messenger-combining list of contacts with the ability to send messages. Later on Yahoo and MSN joined the badwagon, and instant messenging became a popular way of carrying out communications in the virtual world. Basically, online networking is not only limited to making contact with people whom you are acquainted with. Online networking can be used to make new contacts in the business world, make contacts for enhancing job and career prospects etc. Online networking can be divided into two broad categories – social and business or professional. Social networking: As the name suggest, social networking refers to connection made with people for social purposes. The networking can be done with people sharing the same interests, or ideas and thoughts, or people belonging to the same age group. Social networking allows individuals to get in touch with others who share the same thinking, interests and hobbies etc. Getting in touch with individuals similar to you has its advantages. For e.g. if one is interested in literature, networking can get you the information about what will Dan Brown’s latest book be on or even how to read Shakespeare. Social networking includes getting in touch with people with whom we have lost contact over time. They can be our school buddies, colleagues at the first job or anyone whose memory might have faded with the passage of time. Networking with such people has its own benefits. Imagine the toppers of your class. They might have become MDs, CEOs, or some hot shot of a blue chip company. They can surely help you in career enhancement. Sometimes reconnecting with old friends gives an indescribable pleasure. At times, old friends can also be a ‘shoulder to cry on’.
Sites for social networking also give an option for reunion of alumni of various schools, colleges and institutes. By becoming a member of such communities, one gets a chance to interact with the illustrious alumni of the college or school. Interacting with a Harvard alumnus might prove beneficial in more than one ways. There are many sites that allow for social networking. Prominent among them are: Classmates.com, Facebook.com, MySpace.com, Friendster.com etc. However, some sites are open whereas others require invitation. Whenever a site requires invitation, it means one of your acquaintances should be a member of that site and should invite you to become a member. This is done to ensure that only credible persons become member of a site. Keeping a site limited to ‘invitation only’ ensures that strangers are not allowed in. Business networking: Business networking refers to networking with people from the same profession or business as yours. Such networking can be done through online forums, cha t-groups or websites that are especially dedicated to business networking. Advantages of business networking: 1) It helps in finding people who are in the same profession or business. This ensures that one is able to keep abreast of the latest changes taking place in one’s profession. Keeping track of the latest changes helps one to keep the skill set updated. Remember the more you network, the more sources you will have who will keep you informed about the latest happenings 2) Business trends are constantly changing. What might be a fad today may not find a buyer tomorrow. Networking makes sure that you are not caught unaware. For e.g., if you are a chocolate cookie manufacturer and someone from your online networking community informs you about the dropping sales, you can either reduce your production or maybe carry out product innovation so as to minimize the negative fallout. 3) Online business networking can lead to the discovery of new business opportunities. Since no geographical boundaries exist in the virtual world, it can be safe to assume that a person staying in Ibiza can contact a person residing in a nondescript village in India. This can lead to both of them discovering a potential market place for each other’s product. Networking thus opens up the door for unlimited business opportunities. 4) Many a times networking can solve any business or profession related queries. Suppose you are at the cross road in your professional life. Maybe you have got a great offer from a company but are not much acquainted with its work culture. You are already adjusted with the work culture of your old company. In that case, networking can come to your rescue. You can try to locate a person who is working or already has worked with your prospective employer. Try to ask about the work culture. May be this will allay your fears. As in the case of social networking sites, sites that allow for business networking are either open for all or membership is restricted to invitation. Some of the popular sites are Linkedin.com, Ecademy.com, openBC.com etc.
Online networking is thus picking up. More and more people are seen posting their profile on various networking websites. Online networking thus provides a good chance to remain in touch with old acquaintance and at the same time foster new friendships and connections. However, one should bear in mind the baggage brought by the Internet. Remember to keep simple points like protecting privacy
and maintaining vigilance while making new contacts. This will make your ‘networking’ experience a pleasure. About the author: Dakotta J.K. Alex, social networking director and author of “Damn, I Need a Job. Again!” and “The Recruiters Guide Book,” is a Global HR Solutions Consultant specializing in human capital recruitment, process management and career analysis in the US, Europe and China. With over 9 years of consultancy experience he has found his niche in the social networking arena and now runs the 3rd largest recruiting network forum http://www.RecruiterGroups.com in addition to a candidate / recruiter forum known as http://www.AskTheRecruiter.com. Information regarding Dakotta’s other ventures, books, and articles can be found at http://www.dakotta.com.