My 3/01/09 Missoulian column
Recently, I’ve been checking out some of the social networking services on the Internet, such as Facebook and MySpace, which I’ve previously kind of neglected as they are not really my sort of thing.
But I seem to be a minority with that feeling: Between the two largest social networking services Facebook.com and MySpace.com – which I will lump together and call “FaceSpace” – the number of worldwide users is more than 300 million.
The idea behind social networking is people: finding new people, finding old friends and making connections between friends.
Plus, Facebook and MySpace are easy to use. All you have to do is click around and set up a profile with music, blogs, video and on and on. For all purposes, you can set up your own Web page for free, aimed at networking with hundreds or thousands of people.
Social networking has obvious uses for fun, for growing your social circle or to simply wile away a gray early spring day in Missoula. But with any hugely popular Internet service or new gadget, I always have to ask: What’s the practical side?
“FaceSpace” pages have practical sides: Many Missoula businesses and organizations have profiles and network with their customers, users and with other businesses. Just search for “Missoula” on any social networking site and you’ll find hundreds.
But for a more businesslike atmosphere, you might want a networking site that is geared toward business. I’ve been looking into Linkedin.com, which took the idea of social networking to the business world in 2003 and now has around 35 million registered users.
The idea behind Linkedin is, of course, networking, and the first step I suggest for new users – after you start a profile – is to join a group. After that, you’ll want to make connections and use other parts of Linkedin, but for a start just search for a group to join. Search for your college, the type of industry you’re in, the town you live in, etc. (But don’t start a group without seeing if one already exists with the same focus.)
The most obvious first group for me to join was the University of Montana Alumni group. The UM Alumni group was started by Kevin Campana and now has almost 600 members. Campana is an attorney and leadership professional in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and is a graduate of the UM School of Law and UM’s Business School. After verifying that I was a UM alumni, Campana put me in the group right away and gave me a run down on his experiences with Linkedin and some advice on how to use the site.
I asked the alumni group in general about member’s experiences with Linkedin. And that’s for next week: more on Linkedin and making connections.