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A Social-Technology Cheat Sheet

A rundown of some of the major players in the social-software field, along with their cost, their ease of use, and their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to recruiting.

May 3, 2004
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Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Staffing Management
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Friendster (www.friendster.com)
Primary purpose: Keeping friends in touch with each other, so they can meet other friends (and potential dates). Business applications are a very distant second.
Users: Seven million-plus users, most of them college students, 20-somethings and imaginary friends.
Cost: Friendster is still nominally in beta, and all its current services are free.
Owner: A privately held corporation, founded by CEO Jonathan Abrams.
Employment information: There are spaces in each profile for affiliations, companies and schools, but that's it. Users' friends are all displayed, and can write testimonials.
Openness: Users can set the length of the friends-of-friends chains up to which people can view their profiles or send them messages.
Ease of use: Well designed, but painfully slow; pages often don't load. The company is adding staff to address the problem.
Unique features: As the most famous social-networking site, it's already had most of its major innovations poached by others.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: More users than any other social-networking system; connections other than business affiliation are most likely to turn up here.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Relatively little professional content.
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com)
Primary purpose: Targeted networking--each successive circle of friends vets you to the next until you reach a specific person.
Users: 450,000+ and 48,000 "regular users," most of them white-collar workers; 90 percent are not currently seeking a job.
Cost: Currently in beta and free; will eventually charge for contact with willing targets.
Owner: Founded by CEO Reid Hoffman, formerly EVP at PayPal.
Employment information: Profiles are devoted to professional experience. Other users can also contribute endorsements.
Openness: Protective of users' privacy at the expense of the free flow of information. You can see who your contacts' contacts are, but you have to be vetted by people you both know to communicate with them.
Ease of use: Cleanly designed; can also upload contacts from Outlook.
Unique features: Partnered with the Direct Employers Association.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Large and growing quickly; extensive privacy protection makes it attractive to high-powered and popular members. Useful for targeting references. A way to target the popular "passive candidates."
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Privacy protections make it tricky to fish for potentially interesting contacts.
Monster Networking (network.monster.com)
Primary purpose: Business networking, for more generalized connections (that is, meeting people with the same business interests as your own).
Users: The same people who use Monster.com's more familiar services.
Cost: Basic service is free; to get more information about users, it's a $25 "initiation fee" plus $3/month.
Owner: Monster Worldwide owns Monster Networking, which is overseen by former Classmates.com CEO Michael Schutzler.
Employment information: Users can post extensive professional profiles, although you have to pay to get their full names and direct contact information.
Openness: It's meant for "crawling" searches (based on other users' characteristics and interests) more than targeted searches; it also proactively introduces members to each other.
Ease of use: Cleanly designed; can also upload contacts from Outlook.
Unique features: Relatively well designed, with straightforward, clearly displayed links between sections.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Carryover from Monster.com means a solid group of users, and the discussion groups are useful.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Fee-based services mean that many potential contacts are not as involved here as they might be elsewhere.
Orkut (www.orkut.com)
Primary purpose: Semi-experimental networking site, put together by Google; encompasses both social and professional purposes, though more the former than the latter.
Users: To register for the site, you have to be invited by a current member, although that may change soon. Almost exactly half are in the United States, 38 percent are ages 18 to 25, and less than 5 percent are over 40. Membership has expanded outward from Google staff.
Cost: Currently free.
Owner: It's "in affiliation with Google." Founded by Orkut Buyukkokten, a Google engineer who worked on it as a personal project.
Employment information: Each user has an optional "professional" page with simple résumé-type information on it.
Openness: Contact information can be designated as available only to friends, to friends of friends, or to everyone. Otherwise, most information is easily available.
Ease of use: Designed to be simple to use, with an intuitive visual interface (clicking on an icon of a person with a tie leads to a professional profile, for instance).
Unique features: Relatively well designed, with straightforward, clearly displayed links between sections.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Lots of IT types among its users; a handful of good professional forums.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: More social than professional, and it's hard to tell whether the context in which users know each other is strictly personal or business-related.
Ryze (www.ryze.com)
Primary purpose: Ryze centers on message boards meant for "interacting" and "growing organizations"--more business-based community-building than job-seeking.
Users: 80,000+ registered users, almost all professionals of one kind or another. 
Cost: Basic membership is free; for $10/month, users can search by company and get a monthly list of new members.
Owner: Founded by CEO Adrian Scott in 2001, ahead of the social-network curve.
Employment information: Basic résumé information appears on users' home pages. There's a "guestbook," but not references as such.
Openness: You can send messages to some other users, depending on their privacy settings, but you have to specifically permit any given user to see most of your personal information.
Ease of use: The site is three years old, and looks it.
Unique features: Sponsors real-world events for users to meet up.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Business-oriented, with a fairly extensive pool of users.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Boards are active but often have little of substance; the site's biggest network is "entrepreneurs."
Spoke Showcase Network (www.spoke.com)
Primary purpose: Targeted networking, very much like LinkedIn. Harvests contacts from address books and calculates "strength of relationship."
Users: Business-based; claims a database of 15 million people, although relatively few of those are registered users.
Cost: Currently free.
Owner: Founded by a team including CEO Ben T. Smith IV.
Employment information: Users' professional profiles are visible to everyone.
Openness: Strict privacy protections: you can control who can ask you to be a link in a chain of contacts, and for whom you can be asked.
Ease of use: Somewhat tricky, thanks to privacy restrictions.
Unique features: Draws on Spoke's immense database of contact information.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Spoke has extensive documentation of who's connected to whom and how, including professional and alumni associations.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Because not all users are willing to act as links, it can be difficult to get in touch with people through Spoke--even if you know their names to start with.
Tribe.net (www.tribe.net)
Primary purpose: Social and interest-based networks: users can register as part of "tribes" (with discussion boards) based on all sorts of affinities. A bit of business networking, but not a lot.
Users: 140,000+ users; generally tech-friendly, young West Coasters.
Cost: Currently free and in beta.
Owner: A San Francisco start-up, Tribe Networks; founders are CEO Mark Pincus and Chief Technology Officer Paul Martino.
Employment information: Users have a page on which they can list their professional information, and their friends (linked, just as on Friendster) can leave testimonials.
Openness: Some personal and professional information is available only if you're in someone's network (that is, at least a friend of a friend of a friend). Otherwise, entirely open.
Ease of use: Intuitive, if a bit cluttered: dozens of types of links, pictures and boxes on many pages.
Unique features: The "tribes" are the point of the site; members also get direct access to CareerBuilder job postings.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Professional tribes' postings are available for reading, which makes it clear who each tribe’s most prominent contributors are.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: Mostly socially based; much more chatter than deep discussion.
ZeroDegrees (zerodegrees.com)
Primary purpose: Business networking, primarily for targeted connections.
Users: ZeroDegrees distinguishes between 1) "contacts," which is basically everybody it has contact information for, or several hundred thousand people as of early March; 2) "members," who have registered with the site; 3) "friends" (each user’s personal contacts who are also registered members); and 4) "inner circle" (the friends each user particularly trusts).
Cost: Currently free and in beta. Will eventually charge $10/month or so for membership.
Owner: InterActiveCorp acquired ZeroDegrees earlier this year. Founder Jas Dhillon remains CEO.
Employment information: Résumé-like information, available according to each user's preferences.
Openness: Guarded. Information on each user's contacts is available only with his or her permission.
Ease of use: More or less requires plug-in application to work effectively. Registration doesn't even work on Macintosh.
Unique features: Application plugs into Outlook, and can automatically import your contacts.
Potential strength for Workforce Management readers: Entirely business-oriented; comprehensive about making connections.
Potential weakness for Workforce Management readers: If you don't already know exactly who you're looking for, it can be difficult to find the right person.

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