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Summary:

Inspired by Mike G.’s spring cleaning post, I’ve been thinking about all the social networks I have joined both as part of my work and for my work. As an Internet strategist, I try to test out all the sites and Web apps that I can […]

Inspired by Mike G.’s spring cleaning post, I’ve been thinking about all the social networks I have joined both as part of my work and for my work. As an Internet strategist, I try to test out all the sites and Web apps that I can so I can make educated recommendations to my clients based on hands-on experience as well as research and anecdotal information. As a Web worker, I use my social networks to source stories and make contacts and connections that could lead to more work.

I decided to put three of the professional networks that I belong to through a completely non-scientific analysis to see how they are working for me. Of course, once I got this idea in my head, the answers were obvious to me, but it is a good exercise to write it all down.

So without any further ado, the networks I will look at are Ryze, SoFlow, and Xing.

Ryze

Ryze

My Ryze Page: http://www.ryze.com/go/alizasherman

Whenever I log into Ryze, I find two things to be true:

  1. Everyone seems to have been members since around 2002 but stopped updating their pages in 2004 – or least the people I know and with whom I want to connect. There is almost an eerie, time-capsule feeling about it.
  2. I don’t know what to do on the site. I have only two friends which is usually the kiss of death for any attempts at actually networking on a social networking site. I’ve invited some other friends, but they are all on Facebook or LinkedIn these days.

Plus I’ve never gotten any inquiries, requests to friend, or lead from Ryze. I think Ryze’s day has come and gone.

VERDICT: TRASH IT

SoFlow

Well, when I wasn’t looking at SoFlow, which was often, it became Wis.dm or at least the SoFlow URL points there now. From what I can tell Wis.dm (“wisdom” is a social networking site based around users interacting with one another by answering yes or no questions.

No wonder I haven’t heard from SoFlow in nearly a year.

Just for kicks, I entered my SoFlow username and password. And? Nothing. Of course, just like spring cleaning around the house, this one seems like something I should hold onto instead of throwing away. Since it is a new service to me (but old by Web standards circa mid-2007), I should try it out just to see what it’s all about.

VERDICT: SIGN UP FOR THE NEW SITE

Xing

Xing

My Xing page: http://www.xing.com/profile/Aliza_ShermanRisdahl

When it comes to international social networks, Xing seems to be a player. Formerly Open BC, the service seems to cater to the European Union much more than the States. Of my confirmed contacts of which there are…five, two are from Alaska (one who moved to Alaska from Europe), one is from South Africa, one from India, and one from Germany who served as an intern at my Internet company back in the mid-90s.

Other than reconnecting with said intern, Xing hasn’t produced much more than the occasional very random request to connect from some guy in his late 50s in some far flung country. Not sure what that means, exactly. Is Xing an international dating site posing as a professional networking site? Or am I just not using it so I’m relegated to the “has no contacts so she must be desperate” pool?

I’ve never paid for the premium membership and just feel that I can make international contacts through many other networks such as Twitter, Second Life, and Facebook, for example. While Ryze seems like it will continue to provide no value to me, for some reason Xing seems like there’s hope. I’m on the fence with this one.

VERDICT: CONTINUE TO LET LANGUISH

I’ve described how several professional networks are not really working for me. I know that any social network is really only as good as how often you use it and how many connections you have, but even when I pay little or no attention to LinkedIn, it still proves useful to me. I’ve even set up a new LinkedIn account for my Second Life avatar which has helped me connect with contacts from several major corporations specifically for my Second Life work including International Hotel Group and Manpower. Not too shabby for a social networking account for a virtual, cartoony version of myself.

When it comes to spring cleaning social networks, should I actually delete the ones I don’t use or continue to leave them languishing? Part of me says that even though they are not serving immediate purposes in my Web work or network building, they are still a “satellite” presence for me that someone may randomly happen upon one day and offer me a high-paying freelance gig.

And to me, it is almost criminal to delete content off the Web. There is something so nostalgic about stumbling onto a very old Web page that I remember from the early days of the Web without having to visit the WayBack Machine. Still, nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills.

Delete or let languish? That is the question.

  1. Just my two cent on XING…

    It’s been by far the most valuable professional network that I’ve signed up for and still use. Living in Germany, virtually all former and present colleagues as well as most professional acquaintances are on it.

    I’d go as far as saying that in some sectors of the tech/web industry it has become more commonplace to connect on XING as a means of exchanging details, rather than business cards, email, mobile numbers etc. This may be reflected by the fact that XING charges users upwards of €5/month for some very basic functionality, such as seeing who has looked them up.

    The transition from OpenBC to XING occurred alongside aggressive internationalization. XING currently boast 17 languages (compared to only one for most rival networks), which explains why most of the action may be happening away from the domestic US market, as you point out, where competition is stiff.

    I’m just offering this as a counterpoint to your impression of unwarranted solicitations (which, by the way of anecdote, I find much more frequent on LinkedIn).

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  2. I totally agree with you, Okko – if you are in Europe, Xing is a must-have. I don’t think the U.S. membership is that high and so for doing business in the States, it isn’t as immediately valuable. Not that I haven’t any interest in working more globally (hey, I’m a Web Worker so practically global by default), but for Stateside, LinkedIn serves up more.

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  3. I haven’t heard of any of these sites, well maybe except Xing. Multiply seems to be a pretty popular site in the 3rd world countries along with Friendster, I often get “mail order bride” type offers from foreign women in those sites. Maybe I should outsource my dating life using these sites ;)

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  4. On the reverse side of it, I wonder out of all the social networks created by bloggers and site owners using the Ning.com service – how many of those are around after a year?

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  5. Yes, the issue with Ning networks is that the low barrier to entry makes it also hard to differentiate yourself. I think Ning could become a phenomenon with teens who realise they can create their own Facebook and have low expectations of it, but it’s hard for businesses to stand out there.

    My issue with most of the sites mentioned in this piece is that although they all wear a business suit, they still serve the needs of the individual way ahead of the businesses that get listed. You can’t use any of them to search for a type of company you may wish to deal with. Sure, you’d get results showing which individuals know PR, for example, and have done it in former roles, which may be useful it you are hiring, but not if you JUST want to get the details of a reputable company from all your contacts. Hey, you can ask a question of your contacts? Sure, I could do, but isn’t this just dragging things out more than it need to. I’m not asking for much, after all – just details of why I should do businesses with the employers of the millions of people listed.

    I don’t expect our WeCanDo.BIZ site to be listed alongside LinkedIn and Xing any time soon (it went live last week and is currently UK only), but I think we provide something for businesses in social networking that few others do.

    Ian Hendry
    http://www.wecando.biz

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  6. I actually find Ning.com to be incredibly useful for creating private, affinity groups & social networks. I use it as a platform to build communities in specific areas – such as a community for Alaskan businesswomen, one for survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning, one for older moms. I don’t think it is the same kind of service as a Facebook or a MySpace so can’t really be compared in the same way. Apples/Oranges.

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