Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenSocial, Oh My!

The battle for the de facto business social networking platform continues. It seems the big boys are finally getting into the mosh pit (you know when Microsoft gets involved, there is finally money to be made). Social networking has finally “crossed the chasm” with business users where it is no longer looked as a way for your kids to to waste time “MySpacing” their friends.

LinkedIn was the first to prove that social networking can work for businesspeople. At first it was a glorified online resume and business card swap, but it has evolved into a true networking application, with the ability to see someone else’s network and ask for introductions from people in your own network. It has seen a wide adoption because it is an easy progression for businesspeople to move what they are already doing online. Next, Facebook saw the writing on wall (and was tired of shivering in MySpace’s shadow) and went after the business crowd. It could provide true social networking including the ability to post on someone else’s profile, event registration and management, knowledge sharing, and also the ability to see someone else’s network and ask for introductions. However, Facebook took it a step further and opened their architecture for 3rd party development. LinkedIn even has an application that integrates your contacts into Facebook. Microsoft liked their shift from the college crowd to the business crowd so much that they invested the sizable sum of $240 million in Facebook for a 1.6% stake (enough to put their market value at $15 billion).

Supplement these social networking applications with other business-focused tools (such as Jigsaw – a giant wiki for business cards, and ZoomInfo – a businessperson specific search engine) and web 2.0 technologies have now proven their value to the business world.

Enter Google, the new king of the heap in the technology world (sorry Microsoft). Not to be undone, Google recently launched their own social networking platform called OpenSocial. Instead of going to a social networking website, Google annihilated traditional boundaries once again and created a platform that allows the entire Internet to be social. According to Joe Kraus, Google Director of Product Management, “This is about making the Web more social, how do you have your friends go along with you to any site on the Web?”.

Rather than having a profile on every social networking site, this would allow you to have one profile that follows you to every website. What an incredible concept, not only for users but for the companies themselves. Rather than having to create their own online community, they can piggy back off of the Google OpenSocial platform. This equates not only to huge cost savings, but instant access to an existing leviathan of a social network. As usual, Google is revolutionizing everything. Even LinkedIn is signed up as an initial developer to this platform.

Wherever business social networking ends up, one thing is clear. Those who are not utilizing social networking in their own business are quickly being left behind. I discover new Web 2.0 tools every day that help me broaden my network. What are your favorites?

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