Business has always been based on relationships.
But now so many of those inter-personal interactions - cocktail parties, conferences, even hiring company meetings - can be replaced, or at least augmented, by virtual services. Trade all that handshaking for the click of a mouse and your network can expand beyond your backyard to the entire world.
While there are many competing social networks, there's only one leading global business network - LinkedIn.
This site enables connections between and within companies; it's the go-to site if you want to reach your boss' boss or the hiring manager at a rival company. With 43 million members it's not as huge as Facebook (250 million members), nor as glamorous. But LinkedIn is quietly chugging along, operating profitably since 2007. It's valued at $1 Billion based on its last financing, and it's reportedly considering an IPO. LinkedIn is one of the few social networks with a truly diverse revenue stream. It generates an estimated $100 million in annual revenue thanks to a combination of premium subscription services, self-service ads, and a corporate recruiting service.
LinkedIn has thrived through the recession as companies pare down staff and look for online solutions. You'd think that the corporate recruiting business would have suffered over the last year as hiring has come to screeching halt. In fact this part of the business has grown as companies cut back in their human resources departments and look for online solutions for key new hires. And the service seems to really work - it generates mergers and acquisitions, helps the unemployed generate job leads, and allows users to poll contacts or the whole network with a question. And everyone's doing it; executives at every single Fortune 500 company are members.