Social networks provide firms with visibility, connections

Even in the cyberworld, there’s such a thing as a great

Even in the cyberworld, there’s such a thing as a great

The purveyors of social-networking sites on the Internet
have created the perfect corner restaurant, complete with steady foot traffic.

Location, location, location is everything.

There’s a lot of opportunity for traditional businesses to
reach workers and customers on social networks, area businesspeople said.
Social-networking sites and their cousins, like YouTube, have millions of users
each day. That’s a captive audience and an opportunity, they said.

“One thing companies are doing is using (the sites) to
screen candidates,” said Steve Hassinger, career-services director at Central Pennsylvania
College in East
Pennsboro Township,
Cumberland County.

Companies weed out less-than-desirable employees based on
what they find on Myspace, Facebook and other social-networking sites, he said.
So what students put on their Web pages is important, he said.

But there’s a flipside to the relationship among companies,
potential employees and social networking sites, Hassinger said. Many large
companies have user groups of their own on sites such as LinkedIn, a
social-networking site for business professionals.

Hassinger said he and many other career counselors instruct
students to use social-networking sites to research the groups that center on
particular companies. By doing that, students can get better ideas of what the
companies are like and what it’s like to work for them.

“So having a presence on there can be helpful to companies,”
Hassinger said.

Even Central
Pennsylvania College
has a Myspace page, he said. That makes the college visible to more young
people in a wider geographical area.

LinkedIn targets a different crowd than the teens on Myspace
or the college crowd on Facebook.

The average LinkedIn user is 41 years old and makes $110,000
per year, said Krista Canfield, public-relations manager for the
California-based social-networking site. LinkedIn has been around for five
years and has 21 million members, half of whom are in the U.S.

Social-networking sites appeal to business professionals,
Canfield said. The sites give continuity to a business climate in which
individuals move from job to job more often than in the past. To many
professionals, these sites offer an ability to easily find and connect with
colleagues, clients and partners.

“That old business card won’t do you any good if someone has
switched companies, but they’ll still be on the network,” Canfield said. “It
started with individuals, but more and more companies are recognizing the value
of having a profile.”

Last month, LinkedIn added company profiles to its services.
Today, the site has 160,000 of them. There are 400,000 LinkedIn users in Pennsylvania.

“There’s that many people behind these sites that it does
make a huge economic impact to a company,” said William Craig, president of
WebpageFX Inc., a Carlisle-based Web-site-development firm.

“They’ll use it for business development, but we use it for
recruiting,” he said.

WebpageFX uses Facebook to find college grads with specific
skills. Craig uses LinkedIn to keep in touch with colleagues and other business
acquaintances. He also occasionally finds referrals for new business on
social-networking sites, he said.

The popularity and diversity of social-networking sites will
continue to grow, said Dennis Miller, president of Pipeline Interactive, a
Lebanon-based technology and communications firm.

Companies value social networking, he said, but there is one
caution: Don’t take on more than you’re ready for, he said.

If your primary Web site – the interface with your customers
– doesn’t work properly or is confusing, it will not matter how many people you
drive to your company with a social-network presence or other marketing
techniques, he said.

“Make sure you have your primary Web presence locked down
before you try using social networking for your business,” Miller said.

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