Can Social Media Help Build Meaningful Business Relationships?

If you think online social networking is solely for the younger demographic, think again. Thanks to new social networking sites that enable professionals in a wide variety of industries, such as marketing, finance and even medicine, to build meaningful business relationships, social media is now flourishing in the business world.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity recently held a survey and found 65% of business professionals are connecting to social networking websites. Business executives also have turned to online forums, email lists and message boards to sound off on information related to their industries. Of those respondents who do not currently utilize social networks, the top reason (37%) is simply that they don’t know what networks to use. The majority of respondents (59%) said they would likely use social networks if they knew that such use would assist their professional development (31% say they already do), and a full 77% would welcome using them if they though the networks could aid organizational efficiency.

Millions of professionals already turn to broad-based networking sites like LinkedIn to swap job details and contact information, often for job seeking purposes. Recently, LinkedIn reached 43 million active users, with the average age of its members being 41 years. With the growing use of social networking by business professionals, there is a growing number of social networking sites popping up that focus on business users and meeting their needs, that go beyond the broad-based networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. There are also many niche social networking sites for specific industries, such as legal and medical.

For example: When radiation oncologist Michael Tomblyn recently saw a 21-year-old patient whose eye was protruding from its socket, he turned to his fellow physicians for help. Dozens of doctors offered suggestions, HIV-associated lymphoma or a cocaine-associated sinus problem, eventually steering him toward the correct answer: rhabdomyosarcoma, a fast-growing cancer most often observed in young children. Surprisingly, this diagnosis didn’t take place in a doctor’s lounge. It happened on Sermo.com, the largest online physician community in the US, where practicing US physicians collaborate on difficult cases and exchange observations about drugs, devices and clinical issues., which Dr. Tomblyn and 25,000 doctors like him visit regularly to consult with colleagues specializing in areas from dermatology to psychiatry.

Sermo.com is just one of many targeted social networking sites for professionals. Another example is, Nexly.com, a web-based community designed for the B2B marketplace that provides access to tools and information businesses need in order to better connect. While community tools, like LinkedIn are useful for recruiting purposes, Tom Carlock, CEO of Nexly saw the need for a community created specifically for finding service providers. Nexly.com was created to simplify the process in finding qualified outsourcing services that will results in better buying results.

Nexly is currently in the Beta testing process, and on February 16, 2010, they held a focus group at The Net Impact’s office, in order to validate assumptions and biases in the Beta phase.Check out TNI’s Interview with CEO of Nexly.com, Tim Carlock, on TNI’s YouTube Channel!

Even in the midst of the social media revolution, the behaviors and networking needs of business professionals have not changed, the media simply has. In other words, business professionals are meeting age-old networking needs in new ways. Given the new functions, features and real-time access of social media, social networks have transformed the way  professionals establish and maintain their business relationships.

As more and more business professionals turn to social networks to meet their business objectives, we can only expect to see more targeted social networking sites for professionals continue to pop up on the web. While nothing replaces the quality of face-to-face meetings, social media is a new way to initiate and build relationships and thus, continue to grow one’s professional network.

Do you have any other social networking sites for business that you use?

Which one has worked the best for your business?

 

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