Social networks are increasingly being used for business by organizations big and small. Some of the possibilities are fairly standard, like recruitment, while others are innovating on what can be done.
“How do you retain employees in an industry that usually has horrible turnover?” This is a question posted by the director of recruitment for a call center on LinkedIn, a professional networking Website.
Within 24 hours of this question being posted, it had been answered by 41 others from the field of staffing and recruiting!
Every day, entrepreneurs (and others) are using social networking Websites to find an answer to a problem, increase their visibility, find new business contacts, track competition, search for potential employees, schedule meetings, and what not. Most popular amongst these networking sites is possibly LinkedIn, which has 25 million members worldwide, including a million from India. Then there is Ryze and Brijj, which are also fairly popular.
Even Orkut and Facebook are not just limited to casual or personal networking anymore. As Namit Nangia, CEO, lifeMojo, says, “We realized there are not many Indians in health sector on these professional networks. So we started exploring Orkut and Facebook, and that helped us get in touch with dietitians and nutritionists in India. We also did a couple of surveys amongst our friends and found vendors for a few fitness products.”
|Popular Networking Websites|
|• LinkedIn • Facebook • Twitter|
• Ryze • Brijj • Orkut • Friendster
• Tribe • Spoke • ZeroDegrees
Typically, you have to sign up on these Websites in order to create an online identity. Your profile includes information relating to current job, previous positions held, recommendations, and general interests. Some Websites also let you publish blogs or join community discussion groups. The next step is to invite friends and colleagues to be a part of your network. A network is made up of people and links between them. The idea is to provide a platform where people can find and contact others whom they want to reach through people they already know. Referrals and introductions by mutual friends is all that one needs to make a new contact. That provides certain credibility to the whole dialog.
There are a lot of ways people use these social networks. Hiring managers look for employees, job seekers need recruiters, entrepreneurs look for investors and recognize people with similar business interests.
|LinkedIn helps look up a professional before you meet him/her. Many times I have looked up CEO’s [and] VC’s before I met them. It has almost become an online resume for people. |
Sahil Parikh, CEO,
This is one of the most common uses of social networking sites. These Websites have millions of users from virtually every industry and profession. This helps a great deal in tapping suitable employees. It features their online resumes, designations, and recommendations from colleagues. The recommendations reduce the time required for reference checks. Waqar, CEO of SutraHR, an HR consultancy firm, cites an example from his experience.
“As an HR firm, networking websites help to tap the passive employee, someone who is not actively looking for a job. If I am looking for a COO, I will go to the Website and search a few profiles. And I will get four to five people to tap. This has really helped in senior level hiring, as you don’t get their contacts and resume on usual job search engines. We once did a COO level hiring that happened through LinkedIn. That really speaks volumes about the kind of potential it has.”
Social networks are increasingly being used to check references of prospective employees. Their activities on the network help provide a good pen picture about them.
This is a no-brainer. After all, they are called social networks. “These websites are great for networking. Every day more and more business professionals are using social networking and social news sites to build relationships, meet new people, and even market themselves,” says Ankit Maheshwari, CEO, Instablogs Network. For those who say “business is all about contacts,” nothing could be a bigger boon than these Websites. They help build a circle of connections and have them in all one place. So if tomorrow you need to get in touch with someone or need an introduction to someone who is related to your connection, it can be easily done using LinkedIn. In other words, getting to know people whom your connections know.
Moreover, Ankit further says, “It also helps in scheduling meetings with people before hand when attending a conference or an expo. Whenever I am attending some expo or conference
I post the dates on these sites, so that if anyone wants to meet me, he or she can ping me and we can fix a time for the meeting. I have also used LinkedIn to find many existing business partners with whom we are doing business today.”
|Whenever I am attending some expo or conference, I post the dates on these sites, so that if anyone wants to meet me, he or she can ping me and we can fix a time for the meeting. I have also used LinkedIn to find many existing business partners with whom we are doing business today. |
Ankit Maheshwari, CEO, Instablogs Network
Exploring business opportunities
When it comes to acquiring new clients, using these Websites can come pretty handy. Businesses usually spend a lot of time and effort in getting the leads of potential customers. Moreover, one can rarely get their personal contacts by calling their companies. However, as a member of these Websites, one will just have to introduce oneself and send them a mail. If the other person is interested, s/he will get back to you. The whole approach is pretty straightforward.
It also helps to know what one’s connections are talking about and the trends they are following. Sahil Parikh, CEO, Synage Software, says, “I market my service DeskAway for someone who is looking for a project collaboration tool. You have to be there if someone is looking for your product/service and grab the opportunity.” Ryze has a number of networks dedicated exclusively to seeking and providing business opportunities in specific areas like software development, outsourcing, and Web development.
Seeking advice and opinion
Looking at relocating? What are the laws of the land? What are the cultural mores you should be aware of? What can be a better place than your social network to find out? LinkedIn Answers encourage people to ask questions, which can be answered by anyone. As Sahil adds, “LinkedIn Answers is amazing. This truly helps save time in finding and researching things online. You can be sure of posting a question at night and having it answered when you wake up in the morning.”
Product beta testing and soft launch
A social network is a good place to seek inputs on products that are about to be launched. One could go a step forward and get some of the members to test out the product or to fill in surveys.
LinkedIn was one of the first places where a prelaunch announcement was made about this magazine, and from where inputs were sought on what it should cover.
Are you on the lookout for startup investments into your idea? Even while you do the regular rounds of VC funds, it would be worth your while to pass the word around on your favorite social networks. A contact of a contact of a contact may just happen to work with an investment firm, or may be an investor herself.
Social networks are being deployed inside organizations as a tool for team building and collaboration.
The fine print
Like all good things, social networks too need to be consumed in moderation. The person who answers your question may not know anything about it, or, as it very often happens, completely misunderstand it. It is also possible that the people who respond to your requests for feedback and beta testing are not part of your target audience.
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