Today, there are only a small number of effective online network groups. Some are for very small niche businesses and some are just for a particular industry.
But the true online Business Networking groups are few.
There are many, many online group sites that have one or two groups that try to network, but there are very few online networking groups exclusive to making business connections, building community and relationships. And out of those even fewer that are worthwhile and do not charge a membership fee.
This is the third part of the three part series on my report on Network Groups
The following is my review on a few sites I spent a lot of time getting involved with. There are a few more I have heard of but not gotten much involved with and people want me to take a look at, which I will (nag, nag, nag), but I wanted to get this series of blogs out to the many people who are new to the online networking groups in hopes I can help them to learn what is out there and what to look out for.
So here goes, put your rain slickers on the mud is about to fly…
The big ka-who-na. OK, this is the group that everyone I know is waiting for my review on so let me get this one out of the way…I will start off by being nice…LinkedIn has a great concept and is the largest mass of humanity in the universe. That is about as nice as I can stand it. This complete waste of bandwidth is failing miserably as being of any kind of worthwhile network group. When you look up the word suck in the dictionary you will be given Linkedin’s URL. Lots of bells and whistles and lots of being hit on by the ever present MLM’s, who call LinkedIn heaven. If you have not been to this web-site it is worth you going and seeing what not to get involved with. Several years ago, LinkedIn was HOT. The greatest and a must join. If you have been online for awhile you probably were like me, getting two or three emails from friends sending you an invite to join. Truth is, it was LinkedIn sending you the email not your friends… Strike one.
Just take a look at a member’s profile site… does that reflect on how you do business? I hope not. …. Strike Two.
When I joined, all of the sudden I found my entire address book on their site and within one minute had received 15 emails from unreal people wanting to network with me. And fifty emails from my friends who are in my address book wanting to know what tha…? Strike Three. You are out!
Naturally, my first experience in my first online network group would result in me having to deal with having to pull back what was taken from my computer and then go through a two day rig-a-ma-roar of getting my account deleted, all resulting in me having to get another email address…. Wish I was the only one that this happened to, but I am not. And it is still happening… SO, great place to browse to see what sucks, but not to join. Now for those folks that are out there and have had no problems, great, I have friends who are out there also and have had not problems, but, they are not building community or even finding anyone who will carry on a conversation. So Moving on. Rapidly…
Bottomline: Enough said. You know the bottomline; this site is producing a large vacuum it sucks so hard.
This is one of three Mega Sites that reports having millions of members. A perfect example of how Quantity does not build Quality. Tribe.net’s claim to fame is like most of the rest, trying to provide people the opportunity to form their on group or Tribe. Once you form a group/tribe, you then have to find members to join the tribe. Until you get three members in your tribe you are not listed on the tribe directory as a viable tribes…what tha?. Not sure that nurtures community since the tribe not being listed on the tribe directory negates your efforts to building a tribe or group from the members of the other tribes. In other words, what they want you to do is to being in a group of people who are not members of tirbe.net to be your tribe, then they turn you on to the rest of the network to see if anyone wants to be part of your tribe and hit on your friends or your members of your tribe. Do I smell pyramid here? Not very productive. OK, the other option that Tribe.net offers, as do the others sites, is to join someone else’s group, or tribe. Supposedly these tribes are created to interact with their members, but so far the five tribes I have joined since January have had absolutely no activity, other than the MLM’s sending their ‘I want TO Network With You’ message. Talking to the principles of Tribe.net about the inactivity of over 80% of their tribes, I got the pat answer that they have over a million members with thousands of tribes/groups and these groups produce over a hundred thousand discussions each day. True, I saw conversations concerning the mixing of liquid nail with finger nail polish to form an adhesive that sticks to door handles and conversations on why someone is not getting a date, but nothing about how to increase profit margins or anything that had to do with anything of a business nature. OH, yes, there was the occasional announcement on the latest penal enlargements products, but as far as being a viable place to create community and share common interest, those tribes who were formed to do that left back in 2003.
Bottomline: If you want to learn about the latest method of administering a tattoo Tribe.com is the place to go.
Wow, here is a monster. From the makers of Google.com, you can only imagine the traffic to Google.group.com has to be tremendous. Another great concept and what would seem to be a great by product of Google. But, the creators of the site must have googled so much that they lost their creativity and ability to produce any visual effect. If you like White, on White with a touch of White to trim out the White background, then you are a Google.Group person. Google.group.com is another user friendly but very sterile site that provides for the creation of a group. With the million plus members they claim to have you can only guess the number of different groups they have and the subject manor for each group. Again, the limitation of viable business groups that are actually active is really the shortcoming of this site. The creators or principles for this group are far, far removed from knowing what exactly is going on in this site. They probably do not care since the group is so large and the advertising bucks they are drawing from all of the ads on each page. But the site is full of non-economic based groups that probe such intellectual issues as the number of places to effectively pierce your navel so the stud does not come out. Not really the best place to ask for information on a great health or medical plans.
Bottomline: Great place to start. It is safe and your really can’t get in trouble, but you can waste a lot of time trying to find anyone who is still using this site.
Now here we go. Ryze.com is what happens when you try to approach online networking like a traditional business networking group but forget to set limits. Ryze.com, one of the mega sites raped by the pornographic industry after the spammers strafe bombed the membership. Like Tribes.net, a large number of the members who joined Ryze.com in late 2003 got up a abandoned their groups and their profiles. The activity amongst some of the larger business groups is down to insurance agents blindly blitzing their groups with discounts on group’s rates. Yes, that is exactly what I am looking for, aren’t you?
Seems Ryze.com had good intentions and their policies seem to attempt to enforce the member’s rights to not be bothered with useless information, but again, it also looks like the damage to their image has caused a very skeptical membership. I sent a message through the site to one of their members back in February. I just this week go a reply to my message. He apologizes and mentioned that he just ran across my message since he hardly uses Ryze anymore. He was just passing by his site seeing if there were any changes to Ryze. Seems that is what most of the members are doing. Not a really good way to make a connection.
Bottomline: Again, no community, no conversation no interaction of personalities.
Close, but No Cigar. MeetUp.com was one of the best sites I got involved with and it provided the most tools of any of the sites for people to use to create a group and create events for the group to physically attend. This direction is where most groups online are venturing. MeetUp charges a fee to create a group and makes it affordable by providing a 30 day guarantee. Their services include automated interactive email reminder messages, an RSVP system that allows members to tell the organizer if they are coming to the event or not, or maybe and why. Lots of interaction. Lots of creativity. Very innovative. And yes, there are a lot of MeetUp groups that are into things that only someone who plays Grand Theft Auto all day would want to discuss. MeetUp groups are set up for people to gather for a common interest and then get together locally for face to face meetings. Truly, a valid attempt to build community. One of the features that MeetUp offers that is really nice is that if the group is organizing an event for a MeetUp and there is some costs involved the organizer of the group can charge the members who are attending a fee to cover the costs and MeetUp has a merchant service account to collect the funds for the group. But not all is great at MeetUp. There are some groups that have made a valiant attempt to organize specialty groups and spent weeks of time building the group an attempting to get the members to converge at some locations to meet. Thus, the name Meet Up., But groups like the Dallas Sushi MeetUp group that had a very energetic organizer who has energy, purpose and drive, threw in the towel and turn the group back to MeetUp because her attempts to get the members to MeetUp at a Sushi restaurant never was going to happen. In talking to the organizer of Dallas Sushi I found that what was taking place in her group was taking place with other groups that leave their membership open to the public. The Sushi group’s mission was to get together and visit different sushi restaurants and join in community of the group for their common interest. What took place was people were signing up as being from Dallas, but in reality they were from all over the world. She said most of them do it on purpose so they can be disruptive to the group’s purpose. So when an event at a Sushi restaurant was booked the leader found out over a few attempts that the people who joined the group were not interested in going to eat Sushi, they just wanted to email in from India and other places around the world on their interest in Sushi. So, this leader was out the group fee and had egg on her face with several sushi restaurants. What MeetUp does have that would have helped in this situation was to designate your group Private and then everyone wanting to join the group would have to be interviewed. A great feature that is used a lot in MeetUp. I still consider MeetUp as one of the best online groups to easily form your own group.
Bottomline: Check this group out so you can learn how this type of groups works. It will pay off when it come time to get involved is a really good site that has this concept hammered out.
Good attempt, but not convenient
Another one of the mega sites that gain notoriety recently as the place where some of the kids of Mexican heritage promoted the school walk outs across the country in protest for the needed immigration laws that are being discussed in congress. In MySpace you have the ability to join the site and then join groups, or like the other groups, start your own group. What seems to take place here is that there are thousands of groups that are all about the same thing. Just in Southern California there are five groups, all have different names and with almost the same members, that all claim to be for Golf Lovers. Now, I know that there are a lot of golfers in Southern California but it would seem logical that someone would have thought that just making one group for golf lovers would be better than four identical groups. The same thing goes on in other sites, but it seems to be amplified in MySpace. Again, MySpace is experiencing the same problems as the other sites when it comes to people joining a group for the wrong reason. I applaud MySpace for it Private feature. These private groups do self screening of anyone who asked to join the group. I applied for one group of young business people and was declined. It did not upset me because I wanted to see if they held up to their policy of having to be less than 35 years old. Of course this was predicated that I put my true age on my profile, which can be changed at anytime. But I didn’t and they rejected me, so I respected that. I applied for membership into one of the private networking groups. After getting an email from the creator, we visited over a couple of threads and then I got an email from MySpace congratulating me that I was accepted. I am thinking of laminating the email and putting it on my wall. The reason being is that in just the ten minutes after becoming a member of this private group I got a contact by a member of the group who wants me to speak to their groups in South Carolina. How many times has that happen?
One of the aggravating aspects of My Space, as is with the other groups sites, is they do offer blogging but do not have anyway to link the blogs you produce from another site to your MySpace account. So if you blog on Blogger or WordPress you cannot have those blogs automatically listed in your MySpace blog site. You are back to cut and pasting your blogs…
Bottomline: MySpace.com has potential, but only if you are interested in forming a private group.
OK, this brings me to my favorite,
I hit this site at least three times a day just to see who has joined this group today and to see what their claim to fame is. And to see what is discussed for the day. I keep going back to this group because I got in near their start-up and watched the steps the creators took in handling their rapid growth. Interaction is the name of the game with BizNik. When it comes to Networking in the BizNik group, it is more what you know (or in my case, don’t know) than what you are selling. There are no cutesy animation advertising banners or critters crawling across the screen. The creators are not into showing you their technological wizardry (Which they have more of than I have seen in any of the groups). Matter of fact, there is no outside advertising on the site. Does BizNik promotion an individual’s business, or existence on earth? Yes. This blog is being featured on the BizNik Homepage. So, I can only say, they thought enough of me to feature it, so yes, they promote their members. And, yes there is a very diverse membership which balances the community nicely. And speaking of community, this group is run by a very concern group of people who formed this group because they were tired of wasting their time in groups that ‘Suck’. Yes, we are back to what sucks and what does not and BizNik does not ‘Suck’. BizNik’s creators, founders, overseeing Gods, are concern with the problems growth will cause and they are open with their membership on what directions they want to go, which builds even a stronger sense of community amongst its membership. Yes, they have members from all over the galaxy and a map of the world to show you where they are exactly located on earth. Great places to take your fifth grader so they see why they need to study geography. If there is any weakness, it would have to be where BizNik is today, on the threshold of making a change. Not that there standing still, I know there are changes in the mill, but making those changes are going to be tricky in order to keep the integrity built into the first version of this group intact. BizNik has an a local Seattle presences as well as a solid international presence and they facilitates the interaction of the two groups very well though vivid profiling of their membership and through their BizTalk message board discussions. For the local BizNik membership in Seattle, they are encouragement to gather periodically for the very important eye-to-eye; wine glasses rose to the toasting to success; get to know someone better, opportunity. The other members, who fall in the Web-site member category, just get to read about it. It is more of a jealousy factor than a real problem. I see what BizNik has to offer and as an opportunity comes up to take advantage of my business’ national presences hopefully it will take me to Seattle. There I hope to raise my glass amongst this group and toast to their group’s success.
So, the question is.
What is next and where is BizNik going? Well that will be up to the creators. They are doing a good job keeping a finger on the pulse of the group and on other sites on a daily basis. Very smart management. It is not usually to hear from one of the principles of the group or have them sending out a though provoking and generally appealing statement or question for the group to discuss. A rare sign of True leadership in today’s online networking groups. To keep the group’s integrity; MLM’s beware. Businesses that come in to farm connections for their multilevel marketing business are immediately detected and are ejected from the group. A standing ovation is in order for this action. This is another indication of the creator’s and founder’s protection of the membership and the focus on making sure there is a healthy future for the group.
Bottomline: I see BizNik setting the pace for other online groups to follow.
Overview of Online Networking Groups:
All of them have similar uniqueness’ and similar problems. The problems range from:
- Creators and founders having a lack of control or care on who joins a group.
- Over crowding of the site with socialites and disruptors.
- Lack of Trust amongst its members because they do not know who they are dealing with.
So what will have to be part of the online groups of the future?
The creators of online groups of the future will have to find ways to safeguard their membership from problems.
How can they do this? It is amazing what happens when someone sees a photo of someone else. It produces a sense of trust. And if the online groups of the future want to build a site that does not suck and safeguards their membership from people who do, they are going to have to build trust. So, requiring a legitimate photo for each member’s profiles would build a site that builds trust and should be vital part of what the future online networking groups mandate.
How do they do this?
Well here is a suggestion:
Require each group leader to validate the members of his/her group’s with a photo and not allow their members to be posted for public view until they validate a photo for each member.
Again, how do they do this?
Well, there has to be some responsibility to the group being built and there would have to be some enforcement by the site’s management to actually check periodically on members with emails to show them that someone is watching out for the other members. But one Fun way to secure valid photos is at the gathering of the group have a photographer there to take creative and unique photos that will be used on the member’s profiles. (A Great way for photographers to show their craft) The creator of the group places the member’s photo on their profile so all know who they are dealing with. The policy should be no photo, no membership.
What is the future of Online Networking?
Within the next few months online groups that have placed safeguards and tools to control their site’s integrity will see more of the mainstream traditional business professionals joining their ranks. This will bring in greater business opportunities and solid connections that will create a more profitable business network. Yes, there is more to community that focusing on profit. These more established business owners and executives, who shunned being involved in networking groups in the past due to the fear of getting unsolicited solicitations, will come in to find and build community more than business and to share interests more so than farming leads. They will be looking for relaxation because most of the time they are wanting to get away from their profession for a few minutes and make new friends and see what else is happening in the world.
Online Business Networking Groups of the future will look different with more private groups being formed and tools that will allow the global community to gather for a group toast to success.
How Do I Know This? There is a large group of professional that wants to jump in and make a positive footprint in the online community by providing their advice to good hearted business people. I will not disclose or identify the profession since I told them I wouldn’t, but I can say they are very, very, very image conscious and rightly and legally so. This powerhouse of individuals holds the key to every level of the economy. And they would be glad to help in a guarded community. Their guidance and what they have to offer to business people will be of tremendous value to the groups they choice to join. In my opinion, it is high time this profession comes in force into the online networking groups.
SO, listen up online business network groups (especially those groups that do not Suck), the next group of powerhouse business people are sitting at their terminals today (or in my case hiring me to set at the terminal for them) looking for the right group to join.
Final Bottomline: There is no way to put all of this in an OMC and there is no way I am going to try. The catch line here is: If you are in business, then you need to let people know you are in business and the best way to do this is? Well it is not standing up and giving someone your ‘One Minute Commercial’.
Hope this has helped, if not, at least I hope it didn’t Suck..
Innovative Business Golf Solutions, LLC.
‘My Blog’ http://businessgolf.blogspot.com