“Why bother?
We have wonderful online networking portals like openBC and LinkedIn but why do we need them to facilitate our networking efforts?
We have our Outlook Address Book and Plaxo, so why add to the clutter with LinkedIn and openBC? After all, we just need to stay in touch with the people we know.”

My point, on the contrary, is that the people/names that we have in our address book/phone diary/Plaxo, are people we already know. People we have already been in touch with, people we have interacted with – acquaintances, friends, colleagues, family. Portals like openBC and LinkedIn facilitate our interactions with “strangers”. That’s the basis of online business networking – connecting with strangers.

Of course different people use these portals for fulfilling varying needs. For example, recruiters use these portals to get in touch with potential candidates, employers can use it for background/reference checks, job-seekers use it find their next job, etc. People like me, [small business, freelancers, entrepreneurs, business owners] use it for Word-Of-Mouth marketing and advertising and getting in touch with potential customers/clients.

Apart from allowing us to get in touch with strangers, online networking also helps us stay up-to-date with regards to what our acquaintances are doing. What’s the point of having a friend if we don’t even know what they’re doing? What’s the point of having a world-class business service when no one knows about it? Online networking portals facilitate that awareness. Then again, the counter argument to that would be that if one had to announce a world-class service, why would one do it on openBC/LinkedIn, personally to strangers? Why shouldn’t one use the “traditional” media like newspapers, magazines, websites etc.?

For me, I see more value in contacting a person individually and letting them know about my services. Once I am certain to some extent that a particular individual maybe interested in having information related to what I do, I write to them [a private message on openBC] with a short description of the synergy I see. Besides, for someone who is just starting out his/her own business and has no budget to spare on the traditional media, online networking portals are the best way to go forward. I will not say that traditional media and online networking substitute each other, at least not now anyway, but maybe in the future they will. Already, advertising on the Internet is taking a bite out of television revenues. Besides, I don’t think there’s a better way to reach out to an international audience!

These are my direct and immediate reasons for online business networking:

  • Connecting with potential customers.
  • Staying up-to-date with what my acquaintances are doing.
  • Increasing awareness about the services I offer.
  • Reaching out to and doing business with an international audience.
  • Increasing cultural exposure – learning more about other countries.
  • Benefiting from information available from networking that probably wouldn’t be available otherwise.

This list isn’t exhaustive simply because there are too many implicit advantages of online business networking that I haven’t discovered just yet. If there are more that you have come across personally, let me know and I’ll add it.