This is just the beginning of social networking for professionals

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The current issue of BOSS magazine has an article titled “MyWorkSpace” (unfortunately not available online), with an intro: “They’re the new places to see and be seen, and the hottest social networking sites are also places to forge business”.

It quotes me as follows:

Ross Dawson, chairman of the research group Future Exploration Network, says social networks are becoming an important vehicle for engaging with employees and customers. “If appropriately harnessed and designed, they can be extraordinarily valuable tools, both within organisations and for engagement externally,” he says. “Facebook has become as much a professional networking tool as it has a personal networking tool.”

Reuters, for example, has released its own social networking platform for financial professionals, while software companies such as IBM and BEA have developed their own social media software so that these same tools can be used internally by enterprises.

“We’ve reach the point where professionals will find it harder if they are not on these networks,” Dawson says. “These are where people are spending time, and it is an easy place to reach out and build relationships. If we think five to 10 years fowrard we can’t say what it is going to be like, but we do know that social networking tools will be central to our professional lives.”

The rest of the article covers an array of interesting work-related social networking initiatives, including Stan Relihan’s Australian LinkedIn users’ group, recuitment firm Morgan & Banks ‘ LinkMe, Prime Digital Works’ federalelection.com.au, Loop Mobile’s MOKO, 3eep, and others.

As picked up by Social Media in Australia, I think the last sentence of my quote is the central one. It is clear that social networking is here to stay as a work tool. We are still early on that journey, with LinkedIn currently providing only part of the potential value of a professional networking tool, Facebook blurring between personal and work networks, and a relatively small number of specialist professional networks gaining traction so far. However professional social networking has arrived. Now we can explore the potential, and the reality of how professional social networks evolve and are used to create value.

  • With networks like Facebook now blurring the lines between public and private identities, do you think there will be a growing number of multi-ID Facebook members?
    Obviously the openness of a personal profile may contravene the terms of an employment contract … and without a hierarchy of access levels, it makes it difficult to manage who sees what.

  • Interesting question. It’s one way to deal with the potential conflict, but people are known by the same name, and it’s difficult to nominate which profile is work and social. It’s hard to predict exactly how it will play out, but unless Facebook creates specific mechanisms to enable us to distinguish between our professional and personal identities, it is likely to end up as primarily one or the other. LinkedIn, if it shifts its strategy, could take back share from Facebook on the professional networking front.