To me, there are three clear leaders in online business networking sites. They are LinkedIn, openBC and Ecademy.
In many respects, openBC and Ecademy are similar platforms so, to keep things simple, I'll concentrate on LinkedIn and openBC (openBC has about double the membership of Ecademy at 1 million).
So what's the real difference?
In my mind, LinkedIn is focused on the connections and relationships you already have outside of LinkedIn, whereas openBC is a platform that enables you to make new connections and develop your relationships online.
LinkedIn has a culture of barriers to direct contact with people you don't know. Contacting someone on LinkedIn (on the whole) has to go through your network of relationships. Your contact, to their contact, etc. Despite their being upgrades such as "OpenLink" or "InMail" designed for direct contact, this is not used by the vast majority on LinkedIn.
Is this a bad thing?
No, because it has allowed LinkedIn to attract very senior people who value their privacy and don't want to be approached by just anyone. I suspect that if LinkedIn ran a different model then a lot of people would simply not join. LinkedIn explains the concept best here.
Because LinkedIn has over 5 million members, it should be something that everyone uses for their professional success.
However, if you want to find new people and develop relationships online, there are other places with a different approach. LinkedIn isn't really an "open networking" platform (which is why everyone who wants to network joins Yahoo! groups such as MyLinkedinPowerForum)
With openBC, everything is much more...well, open.
Firstly, you can search for anyone on the network (regardless of how closely they are connected to you). You can send direct private messages to people even if they don't know you (they have a very strong anti-spam policy - your email address is always private), and you can participate in forums with people who share the same business interests.
So if you're looking to meet with new people and develop a relationship online (or take it offline by phone or face-to-face meetings) then openBC is a very good platform to use.
It's worth knowing that openBC has a large European membership, so if you're only looking to connect to people in North America you may find the overall numbers are smaller than on LinkedIn.
So, personally, I can see advantages for using both; it all depends on your own objectives.
Labels: social networking sites