If you haven’t already, then you should join LinkedIn. If you are under 25, then you probably are on Facebook or Myspace. If you are over 40, then you don’t even think about joining a social networking site. I have been evaluating several sites for the last year and have come up with three good reasons to join.
First, if you are going to need a job in the next few years (or you think that with the recession getting worse that the probability is high) then being on a networking site raises your visibility. You can search the sites to find someone already working at a company that you are interested in. The IT industry has been a power user of Linked In for several years.
Second, if you are doing the hiring then you can find people that have worked with the candidate in the past. It makes checking references easy.
Finally, by joining a group on a networking site you can find like-minded professionals. You can share ideas, research vendors and ask questions.
So once you have decided to join a group then you need to decide which one. I think that everyone should pick two sites; one personal and the other business. Facebook is becoming the defacto personal social networking site. If you ask any teenager they prefer Facebook over MySpace. I think that the same thing is going to happen in the business networking sites.
Last year I joined Linked In, Naymz, Plaxo and Ning. After 12 months of trying to maintain three different sites I finally decided this fall to concentrate on Linked In. Every month I received more request to connect to someone on Linked In than the other two. I am now trying to go “deeper” into one site versus trying to maintain three.