Sunday, October 14, 2007

Are online social networks a waste of time?

As people might have noticed, I link to a couple of online network profiles from this blog (MySpace and Facebook), and I am a member of a couple more (LinkedIn plus a few others). Perhaps it's not surprising that people some times asks me why I am a member of such things, and if it's worth doing.

Like everything else, the answer to that question is a bit complicated, and really depends on who you are.

There is no doubt that online networks are very popular, and that in certain parts of society, they are widespread. When looking at the list of websites that Americans spend the most time on, MySpace is number one with about 12% of all internet time (the list can be found a few posts back). MySpace more or less started out as a tool for bands to promote themselves, and has morphed into something much bigger - personally I dislike MySpace, but I still have a profile because I find it practical (and because I got asked often enough if I had a profile there).
For bands who want to promote themselves, MySpace is probably a good tool, but for the rest of us, the site is not particularly practical, and is probably mostly used because it's the most widespread one.

Facebook has a different feel than MySpace, and that's probably because it started out as a proper online social network for college students, where they could communicate and keep in touch. The goal of Facebook is not to promote something, and that shows - where it could be argued that MySpace focuses on form over functionality, I would say that the opposite is the case with Facebook (with the ironic result that many of us think much better of Facebook's form).
If you want to play music or movieclips when people visit your profile, Facebook is not the network for you.

LinkedIn is the online network that I am most familiar with, having used it for some years. Unlike MySpace and Facebook, LinkedIn sells itself as a professional network, where you keep track of your business contacts. It's quite popular among IT people, and it certainly comes handy when doing a bit of research of people/companies.
The focus of your LinkedIn profile is to present your professional side - basically visitors to your profile can see your CV (or however much of it you make public), so they can get an idea of your qualifications.

I've got asked to apply for jobs a couple of times because people came across my LinkedIn profile, and found it relevant. I've also used it as a tool of contact when I wanted to get hold of someone that I knew someone else knew. And as a consultant, it's a good tool of keeping track of co-workers from former projects.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only network of these three that I regularly recommend is LinkedIn. However, that depends very much on what your needs are. Most high school kids get a lot more out of MySpace than they would ever do from a LinkedIn profile.

So, to conclude a little, online networks are a great tool for keeping track of your contacts, and promote yourself - you just have to choose the right network for your purpose. In other words, know your needs, and use the right tool to fulfill them.

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Blogger Shalini said...

Try Nature Network.

October 16, 2007 2:42 AM  

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