Previously seen as an obsession for the bored or those with nothing better to do, business social networks are emerging as the next big thing for business marketers. With a savvy strategy, developing businesses are now able to attract new clients, as well as further develop their relationships with current customers through a business social network. Business social networks already existing social networking sites such as snob.ru, Facebook, hi5, apsense.com, LinkedIn and MySpace boasting hitherto unprecedented membership numbers, one can latch onto an already developed business social network or social networking site or create a totally new one depending on the purpose or target market the business social network will serve.
The business social network generally comprise large, usually membership only networks, of users who are further organized into groups and communities. Members of a business social network build connections directly with other members and form personalized networks that may be based on friendship or common tastes such as music, writing, movies or travel, and so on. The major difference between a business social network and more traditional online communities is the friend-of-a-friend (FOAF) model applied by social networks. Members maintain direct connections with friends through their respective business social network, but have limited access to the direct connections of their friends. The FOAF model allows members interact with others with whom they might have no other prior connection. Business social network members have generally established working rules for the different types of connections in their network and the closer the connection to a users friend in terms of degrees of separation the more trusted that member would be within that business social network.
Recently there have been some social sites specially developed and dedicated towards business social networks and one needs to be a member in order to enjoy the full range of services. Most of the features of a business social network are not unlike those of the regular social networking sites. The only difference with the business social network is that one has to create not only a personal profile but one of their businesses as well and include a link to their business’ website. A business social network is a one stop shop for anyone looking for goods or services and one is able to select from a variety of service providers. On the other hand, in the social networking sites one is able to have a far larger outreach than on a business social network. This is because as business social networks are specialty networks dedicated to trade in goods and services. A business social network is open to just about anyone who is interested in meeting like minded people provided one has a valid email address. There is usually a segment on the side of the page dedicated to advertising on a business social network where anyone who would like to market their business or a particular product is able to post an ad for the same and one is also able to create a group for people within the business social network with an interest in or who are current users of their products or services and depending on the particular product or service one is also able to package it in a number of ways.