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Suppliers see benefit of social networking

June 1, 2010
by Adelle Larmour
In: Technology with 0 Comments
A growing number of Northern Ontario business people are finding value in a California-based social networking site called LinkedIn.LinkedIn is a network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries and 200 countries, according to its website. It markets its website to business people promoting the concept of establishing a “network of trusted contacts.”A new member joins every second, and about half are from outside the United States. The company has been in operation since 2003, and as of mid-April, has more than 65 million members.

Canadians are one of LinkedIn’s fastest growing markets, according to a March 28, 2010 Globe and Mail news story. With two million Canadian members, the company has plans to set up an office in Canada, its sixth office worldwide.

Mitch Joel, marketing and personal branding expert, believes it is time to reboot the traditional way businesses promote a product or service and explore the digital medium of social networking via online communities.

Joel spoke with cohort Julien Smith, author, consultant and speaker, in North Bay at the Trust Summit March 30th, sponsored by the Ben Farella Group and The Business Centre.

“We’re at this very interesting moment in time where you as business owners have an opportunity to be a part of one of the biggest shifts in how we connect to consumers.”

With an online population of about 1.8 billion, Joel sees social networking as a huge opportunity for businesses. He also took issue with the perception that it is only young people with body piercings and tattoos that participate in these networks. Half of YouTube’s audience is more than 34 years-of-age, and as of July 2009, more grandparents were on Facebook than high-school students.

He emphasized this new medium is not a fad and will not go away. “It is attitudinal, not generational,” he said.
Business people across Northern Ontario are also seeing the value of social networking. Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal interviewed five business executives active in the mining industry ranging in age from 30 to 60-plus years who use the LinkedIn website.

All of them say LinkedIn is a good resource for obtaining and sharing information specific to their area of expertise. They said it is useful for maintaining contacts and establishing a network that could open doors to referrals. It’s not a tool for sales or marketing, they insist, and none of the users interviewed reported problems with recruiters.

North Bay’s Roy Slack, president of Cementation Canada, joined the site last year. He prefers its business-oriented flavour to other social media networking sites.

Slack, who is open to trying new things, finds the site easy to use. He views it as a pared-down business version of Facebook.

“It is a good way to exchange information with people who have similar interests,” he said.

Patrick Hudd, Cementation’s manager of estimating, has been on LinkedIn for several years. He uses it for peer-group networking.

“It is most useful for news aggregation,” he said. “It is a good way of sharing knowledge, although it is only as good as the other users and their willingness to share.”

Bestech’s manager of sales Adam Tonnos also discovered that once he started to contribute in a meaningful way, his network of contacts began to grow. “It is a very useful networking tool. It is in real time and up-to-date as long as people maintain their information.”

He is now leading a group and also works in a subcommittee with the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy to determine how social media will fit in with the association’s goals.  “That subcommittee has people in the mining industry who are fairly well connected with other people,” allowing him to further expand his contacts.

LinkedIn requires the user to complete a profile based on the individual’s professional expertise and accomplishments. Connections are made by inviting known contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you.

Groups exist on an invitation basis as well. The groups are geared to the preference of the person leading it. For example, Hudd runs four groups, one of which is called Shaft Sinking and Mine Development, very specific to Cementation’s expertise.

A group narrows the focus and filters out extraneous information often found on the Internet. Slack finds that aspect appealing.

Allan Akerman, research program director at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, has been on LinkedIn for a year and used it to run his CEMI groups. He said it is an easy way to keep track of people who change companies.

However, CEMI retired the group on LinkedIn and moved it to its own website in order to better control access to information.

“CEMI does work on some confidential projects,” he said. “With this new system, we can control what people see and what they can access, both internally (within CEMI) and externally.”

Other mining suppliers commented that LinkedIn helps them keep track of their contacts.

Tom Palangio, president of WipWare Inc., a North Bay company that specializes in image analysis software and systems for the mining industry, has been participating on LinkedIn for approximately five months.

“I have an international network of contacts and I like to keep track of them,” he said, explaining that due to the nature of their work, they are quite mobile. LinkedIn helps Palangio keep track of his extensive database within a neutral platform. “Sometimes you want to talk to others in your field over a neutral (medium) to ask about how they would handle certain situations. If you have a good network of people you trust, it is a good resource.”

www.linkedin.com

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