In the knowledge society that is characteristic of the 21st century, the need for individuals to have expanded and supportive connections in the form of on-line social networks is becoming a reality by the day. Presently, internet users are communicating with their friends and business partners located half-way across the world through on-line social networks such as Ning, MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn and Flickr.
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Online social networks utilize the principle of individuals having the same interests. In the internet, individuals and businesses sharing the same interests or objectives would normally contact each other through established online platforms such as the ones mentioned above. After initial contacts have been established, individuals would forge a partnership to boost their status while businesses forge alliances to boost their competitive advantage in the market (Enqdall 3).
In the old days, on-line social networks existed to give individuals sharing the same interests a chance to meet through online protocols. Presently, the social networks offer a fundamental platform for business professionals to conduct on-line businesses and boost their sales as exhibited in the case study. The LinkedIn network platform enables its members to seek employment opportunities, consulting engagements, professional expertise and financing services (Piskorski 1).
According to the case study, the internet offers the capacity to connect individuals through unprecedented ways. This means that on-line social networks can be used as engines for growth in the business sector. Indeed, these networks offers much more value than other existing substitutes such as off-line social networks due to large volumes of people that an individual or business can contact. A normal off-line social network may consist of not more than a hundred friends or twenty businesses interconnected together. But in on-line social networks, individuals and business entities have the capacity to meet thousands, perhaps millions of other people and businesses. LinkedIn have a web-based network of an estimated 5 million people.
Apart from offering more opportunities in terms of large volumes of traffic, on-line networks are fast to use since individuals and businesses are able to communicate with their counterparts in real-time. To find individuals with specific capabilities in LinkedIn, users only need to search their personal networks by indicating a combination of keywords, industry group, or physical location (Piskorski 2). Business professionals using on-line networks do not have to undergo unnecessary traveling costs to seal deals or source services since these activities can be successfully done using on-line network protocols. What’s more, the on-line network offers members with the much-needed privacy.
According to the case study, LinkedIn members span more than 120 industries (Piskorski 3). The most likely people to sign up on LinkedIn are business professionals, chief executives and general managers, job seekers, recruiters, sales people, consultants and individuals interested in social networking. In essence, LinkedIn provides something for everybody be it in the social or business front. However, the case study clearly reveals that the on-line network platform is mainly oriented towards offering business solutions to individuals and businesses.
A multiplicity of individuals and groups are likely to value access to LinkedIn members. Relationship managers are known to utilize the first-degree networks to gain access to some of the goods and services they may require. Managers will also value access to LinkedIn members to look for like-minded investors for a startup business or reconnect with former associates and partners. Networkers will most likely value access to LinkedIn members to scout for individuals who are more likely to join their networks.
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Recruiters, business investors, analysts, sales professionals and business development people are also more likely to be interested with accessing the Linked in network to specifically search and contact groups of individuals matching the required criteria (Piskorski 5). It is imperative to note that various contactors use the services offered by LinkedIn for purposes of recruitment. These contactors include professional recruiters, hiring managers and employees of corporate HR department. Professional recruiters may utilize the service to search the detailed biographic data of LinkedIn members in the hope of coming up with candidates who match the specific criteria issued by the hiring organizations. On their part, hiring managers may value accessing the network for purposes of recruiting employees to fill a broad spectrum of vacancies.
To fuel its growth strategies and remain feasible in the ever-competitive business environment, LinkedIn has to come up with a way of raising the needed capital. The two options mentioned by Guericke and Huffman have their own advantages and disadvantages. In this day and age when other major players have entered the scene, using an option that will chase away the network users may not be in the best interest of the organization.
Although introducing monthly membership charges to coincide with enhanced search functions and new features may be profitable to LinkedIn, it is unnecessarily going to slow membership growth and give other players in the industry some room for improvement. As the case study suggests, this option actually limits the company’s competitive advantage. In this perspective, the option that allows all platform users to contact each other for $10 fee may be more plausible. But then, this revenue generation option also needs a lot of fine-tuning to curtail any possibility of losing network users due to the fee (Piskorski 11).
A good business model to employ in such a circumstance is that which allow the requestors of the service to pay the $10 fee instead of charging the fee across the board. For instance, if a professional recruiter uses this service to contact a potential job seeker, he should be debited with the $10 fee rather than having the job seeker pay for a service he never requested in the first instance. Such a charging system makes good business sense.
Enqdall, S. Online Social Networking (Current Controversies). Greenhaven Press. 2007. ISBN: 9780737738001
Piskorski, M.J. LinkedIn (A). Harvard Business School. 2007.