Networking and Communication Tools
Finding a friend or business contact over the Internet is now a common occurrence in today's society. Below are some sites that allow professionals to create a profile and connect with others who have similar interests or professional qualifications. These sites help professionals create virtual relationships with folks which could translate into actual connections in the real world.
Potential faculty and staff uses for business networking:
Connect with others in your field for finding expertise on certain topics, partnering on research projects and/or publications, or expanding your contact list within your field
Investigate job opportunities (which may be posted by members) and check to see if you have connections at a company or within a field of study
Create groups based on a subject area, field of expertise, alumni group
For students: the opportunity to present their work experiences and education on the Internet in a professional manner for peers and future employers - less opportunity to have "questionable" pictures, comments from friends, and other material on the site
One of the more popular professional networking sites, LinkedIn allows users to create a profile that details their education, past and current job experiences, and a short synopsis of what they hope to gain (or give) by being a member. The profiles look similar to a generic resume and cover letter. Users are able to connect to others using 1st degree "connections". Once a person is connected to another person they are able to see connections that are shared between the two parties, as well as the first, second, and third degree connections. When inviting someone to connect to you, you can select how you know them (as a friend, co-workers, schoolmate) and this will be indicated on your profile. In addition, users are invited to write "recommendations" for connections which appear in the user's profile. Finally, LinkedIn provides users with additional network information based on their location, field of expertise, and number of contacts.
Plaxo states that it is many things to many people, and that it is. First, and most controversial, it allows users to synch their activity from other internet sites and applications into one place for others to view. Although this may be a convenient way to keep tabs on friends, the amount of sites that users can synch from can be overwhelming and possibly intrusive to some. The creaters state that obtaining information from different sources is the best way to stay connected to contacts on the site. Second, Plaxo allows users to connect to people they know using search functions and pulling from email contact lists. The overall look of the site is much like Facebook and the t wo sites share some of the same features. Plaxo allows users to post videos, pictures and reviews and also enables users to become "fans" of popular TV shows and other mainstream media and pop culture material. Users can see the activities of their connections by checking their personal front page, the Plaxo Pulse. While a profile contains mostly information about professional experiences and educational background, users are able to add personal information about interests in the "About Me" section on their profile. Plaxo is a free service, but for a fee users can gain premium services such as additional storage for contacts, backup and recovery of the address book and more.
Ryze offers business networking for users but fails to look as polished as other business networking sites. Users create a profile with information about interests, education, and professional experience and are encouraged to find friends on the site. One unique Ryze feature is the use of guestbooks. Ryze culture encourages strangers to send messages via the guestbook as a way to begin conversation. Also, users are able to join a network which allows members with common interests to post information and discuss topics over a moderated message board. Ryze is free, but in order to make contact with friends of friends above the second level, one has to be a Gold member ($20 per month charge.) In addition, Gold members can see who has viewed their profile and are able to lead networks. Users also have the option to upgrade to the Silver level with a few less features than Gold for $10 per month.
Skype is a program that enables people to talk with others using VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology. Once downloaded onto a computer, an individual Skype account can be created. Skype users who wish to talk to other Skype users can do so in real time for no cost. Skype users can also contact regular phone users (cell or landline) for a small cost. Calls can be made within the US or internationally. As part of the free download, other callers not using Skype can reach Skype users at any time as long as the users are logged in to the program. Skype users can also arrange for audio and video conferencing between large groups. SMS messages can also be sent via a chat mechanism within the program.
Billed as a way to keep in touch with friends and family in between emails and blog entries, Twitter allows users to let others know about their lives through messages that are less than 140 characters. Unbelievably simple, users create an account and type in words that attempt to answer Twitter's main question: "What are you doing?" People who want to know about your life, named "followers" in Twitter, can track your changing status and users can check others' statuses using the "following" feature. Updates can be done online or through one's mobile phone.