Rubbing Elbows In Cyberspace

More professionals are connecting through online networking

As executive producer of hive.media, an independent television production company based in Dallas, Alexander Muse knows that while creating a television series is one thing, selling it to a network is quite another. After completing the pilot for Motorsport Ranch, a high-octane series about a country club for people who love to race cars, Muse received numerous offers from “third-party consultants” asking for hefty sums, plus a percentage, to introduce him to the right people at various broadcast and cable networks.

Instead, Muse tapped into his online database of trusted contacts at LinkedIn.com, a business-oriented networking site with more than 2 million registered users. “I searched [LinkedIn] for program directors and program managers for every television network I could think of and it netted conversations with several of them,” says Muse. Though he is awaiting finalization, Motorsport Ranch is as good as sold.

Proponents of online social networking say person-to-person networking cannot compare to having access to a massive digital database of business professionals. “I have 418 of my contacts on LinkedIn.com. These 418 connect me to 1.2 million professionals. It is wild to think you can reach that many people,” says Konstantin Guericke, co-founder and vice president of marketing at LinkedIn.

An initial network of 10 people, each adding 10 more, could quickly grow to a web of 10,000 professionals. Users can search their network for jobs, services, referrals, and more. “Most people prefer to hire people from a trusted contact,” says Guericke.

Lee Green, director of the National Black Business Trade Association (www.nbbta .org), has between 400 and 500 direct contacts on the association’s online network (www.nbbta-network.ryze.com), which he moderates on Ryze.com, another business-oriented networking site. He estimates that networking on the Internet gives him access to 20,000 to 30,000 contacts. Green, a big believer in the benefits of networking, emphasizes that online networking provides “the tools to extend ourselves out to the larger marketplace.”

Meanwhile, Darren Smith, co-owner of Global Ad Marketing, a commercial printing and advertising firm, moderates the Black Business Network on Ryze.com. He says online networks like Ryze and others are excellent sites to advertise business services because “they allow you to reach a massive audience at one time.

“Networking is a key element in building relationships that enable you to gain support from friends, relatives, associates, and acquaintances to help you reach a goal or objective.”

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