5 Networking Sites For Building Business Relationships

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Twitter recently announced that it had surpassed the 100 million registered users milestone – no surprise given the sheer number of businesses now happily using Twitter and Facebook to market their brands online. But while even the most reluctant of CEOs would have to agree that the two social networks are now viable online spaces for corporations wanting to better connect with their customer bases, those wanting to connect with other businesses may still need to look elsewhere.

Forging business relationships online was once the sole preserve of LinkedIn. Although stats suggest that more than half of its registered accounts now belong to non-US residents, it is arguably still the most well-known of the business networking sites. Perhaps inevitably, other business-oriented social media properties have sprung up over the last few years. And, if you’re serious about networking online, gathering contacts or developing closer relationships with customers and suppliers, it’s time to expand your presence and try some of these alternatives to LinkedIn.

But just as it was impossible to figure out which of the thousands of social media sites were worth your time when the bubble started to form five years ago, it can be hard to know where to spend ever decreasing man hours when looking for sites that can add value to corporate networking. To help get you started we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch…

1.  http://www.Ecademy.com

With a tagline of “Exclusive business networking for the digital age,” Ecademy is tailored specifically towards entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to expand their network of contacts. The site aims to foster new contacts and encourages the sharing of knowledge through blogs, groups and boardrooms – a unique once monthly, behind closed doors online meetings that provide access to expert support and guidance from experienced professionals.

2.  http://www.networkingforprofessionals.com/

Although there is a fee to join the Networking for Professionals web site, business owners in some States are afforded complimentary membership. The site combines online and offline activity. Online networking includes the ability to complete a mini business profile, browse lists of other members and contact them through the site. Offline, regional networking events are held so members can meet face to face to chase referrals, increase business exposure and make new contacts. This useful mix of on and offline events is perfect for those serious about pursuing networking opportunities.

3.  http://www.partnerup.com

Featured in the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, PartnerUp is an online community for small business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The site aims to provide a complete small business networking experience, making it easy to do everything from find investment opportunities in startups, find office space or commercial property, ask questions via discussion boards, and find products and services.  The site is free to join.

4.  http://biznik.com/

With specific regional communities for cities like Seattle, New York, Austin and Portland, Biznik is an award winning community for the small business owner. Stating that it is ‘not the next LinkedIn’ nor a ‘place to post your resume’ BizNik is a place to share ideas, discuss the challenges facing small businesses, meet face to face, collaborate and build recognition. The site offers a choice of 3 membership levels from free basic membership, to $10 a month pro membership with video profiles and unlimited postings, through to the $25 proVIP package which offers enhanced visibility.

5.   http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/

With the convenience of a social networking platform with the added value of business-specific tools, Fast Pitch Networking aims to get professionals online and networking with each other irrespective of geographical location. The site encourages members to share referrals and information. In order to help deliver a return on investment, facilities such as press release distribution, blog promotion and email marketing can be accessed from your profile page.

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Do you have any other favorite networking sites that you think other business owners might be interested in?

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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