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Business Social Networking

A few days ago, I wrote about being a Social Networking Stowaway, particularly on sites like Facebook.  I find that most social networking sites are interesting, but not necessarily useful.  LinkedIn is an exception, which is indispensible for business connections.

In today's Wall Street Journal, there is an article on vertical social networks in various business categories.  They use an example of a Boston company, Sermo, that is a social network for doctors to exchange information about patient diagnoses in a confidential environment.

Inmobile is an online community for wireless executives and investors that I have participated in.  There are very useful discussions about industry and technology trends in the wireless space.  The site is open by invitation only.

It seems like one business context for social networking is the closed networking function where you can interact with colleagues and counterparts.  These sites have to be moderated and closed to keep the quality of the participants up and the discourse on track.  Also, they have to be on subject matters where users feel they can share ideas without giving away secrets to competitors or violating company privacy rules.

The WSJ suggests that these sites are useful in industries where people work alone much of the time, such as medicine.  That may be true, but I find that technology forums, such as Inmobile, are also interesting to hear people's views on trends.  I have also made some professional contacts through Inmobile that I wouldn't have made so easily in a pure offline setting.

I am not yet convinced on the business models for these businesses.  Sermo has an interesting model where they charge hedge funds and drug companies for access to sanitized versions of the discussions between doctors.  Inmobile charges some money for promotion to their users.  Neither of these sites can scale to be a huge size without jeopardizing the quality of the interactions.  So, I think that they can be very useful, but wonder if they have to be a labor of love, rather than money.

What other business social networking sites do you like?


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