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Business social networks mature

Sites like LinkedIn provide two major tools for career development and business development.

LinkedIn, the business equivalent of social network sites like Facebook and Myspace, is preparing for an IPO that could potentially value it at anything up to $1bn.

Social networking is big news and now it’s also big money, and the buzz around news like this can only be good for users of these tools.

Back in my MBA days I remember looking at the value networks in relation to things like mobile phones and faxes. In the early days of any network, when there are few users, there’s not a lot of value in joining a network because it doesn’t connect you to many people. As the size of the network grows, the value increases exponentially until it reaches critical mass and starts to snowball. That’s exactly the point that sites like LinkedIn and MySpace are headed, if they haven’t already got there.

So much for telephones and faxes, you say, but what has that got to do with personal branding?

Sites like LinkedIn provide two major tools for career development and business development. First, they give you the opportunity to set up an online profile which is searchable and visible to other users, and second they provide you with an easy way to connect to new people, reconnect with people you may have lost touch with, and stay in touch.

Our personal networks are a huge asset, whether for promoting ourselves or just generally in life, but if you’re anything like me it can be embarrassing to call or email someone you haven’t spoken to for five years. Unless, that is, you find them on a networking site; then it’s easy to drop them a line to say "hey, I spotted you’re using LinkedIn (or whatever) too, and thought I’d catch up with you".

As to WHY personal networks are so valuable, that must wait for another post…

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