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Employers: Why You Should Be Part Of Online Networking

At a recent conference in San Francisco that gathered the who’s who of social online media, blogger extraordinaire Arianna Huffington stated that Barack Obama would not have won the election if it weren’t for the Internet.

Many have stated that it was Obama’s ability to utilize networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that gave the new President-elect a leg-up on the competition.

If online networking is so important and obviously successful, this question has to be asked—why aren’t you networking online? Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn claim that currently 49 percent of its growing 27 million registered users are decision makers. In other words, online networking is a growing tool for top executives, so to abstain from it is at your peril.

In case you haven’t walked around the cubicles of your company lately, the minimized screen on most of your employees’ computer monitor is most likely Facebook or some other networking site. Yes, it’s hard to keep up with the growing list of networking sites these days. From LinkedIn to Facebook to Myspace to microblogging network sites such as Twitter and Tumblr, there are endless choices out there. And if you don’t know what microblogging is, well, let’s just say you’re the last person to arrive to the Web 2.0 dance.

Maybe that’s why you’re hesitant to join—because your employees are using these social/professional network sites or you feel late to the game. The last thing you want is your teenage daughter wondering why in the world you showed up on her turf.

Sure, there are reasons why you don’t want to join the online networking movement, but the reasons why you need to join are even more persuasive. Here are a few:

1. It’s a viable and growing market. Half of the top 10 visited sites in the world are social networking sites. It is a market you have to be aware of.

2. Your employees live on it. Unless your company has blocked all the popular network sites, someone right now in your company is surfing on one. (Note: even if your company has blocked all the sites, there are various ways to get around that. Just ask your IT guy who just logged onto his Myspace account).

3. Learn from the brightest. Some of the smartest and youngest talent are creating this Web 2.0 phenomenon. What they lack in venerability, they make up for with innovativeness and ingenuity. The dialogue surrounding the technology world is worth delving into.

4. Actual money is being made here. It’s one thing to just speculate about the value of a social network site, but when real money is being put on the table ears perk up. Whether it’s through site members paying for premium service to advertisements sold on these high-trafficked sites to large companies buying these startups, astronomical amounts of cash is being transacted. More than waving off social networking as a trend for Generation Y, you should be asking, “How can my company get in on the action?”

5. Be part of the conversation. No executive should ever step into a meeting or walk by a water cooler conversation and have absolutely no idea what someone is talking about on a relevant subject matter. Not having something to say about NBC’s hit show "The Office" is forgivable, but when you have no clue what a “podcast” is, that only indicates a widening gap between you and the rest of the web world.

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6. Be part of the talent. Even in this economic downturn, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn has seen an increase in activity and sign-ups. As mentioned before, LinkedIn claims that out of its 27 million registered users, 49 percent are decision makers. In addition, the average household income is $110,000 and the average age is 41. It’s a recruiter’s goldmine for top executive talent, and unless you can predict you’re career future, you need to keep your networking lines open.

If you’re still cautious, it may serve you best to do a little homework by visiting the “About Us” sections on these sites or even asking your teenage daughter for some insight. If all you’re looking for is to network online exclusively with other senior executives, do not fret, there’s even one of those (www.meettheboss.com).

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Won Kim is an editor at Vault. He graduated from Rutgers University and is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com