Are these people in your social network or just from another bad Web site template?

Are these people in your social network or just from another bad Web site template?

Social networks are growing. Especially those that have anything to do with networking for business. It’s clear that in this down economy, workers who have lost their jobs or are looking to bolster their connections before they do are updating their profiles and making connections on social networks.

But how many social networks should you be a part of? Experts agree on a few rules of thumb when it comes to online social networking.

Don’t spread yourself too thin.
There are a bunch of social networking sites out there. A quick Google search for “business networking sites” turned up 81,700,000 results, and there are several easily found articles on the top 50 social networking sites for whatever you want to do online. But let’s just focus on the professional ones.

Arguably LinkedIn has the corner on this market, but a few others are vying for second place including Plaxo, Ryze, Xing and Biznik. Others include MySolutionSpot, Spoke, Ecademy, YorZ, and Networking For Professionals. And then there are those that are better described as business and employee search engines such as Zoominfo and Jigsaw.

Personally, I use Facebook and LinkedIn fairly regularly. In addition, I’ve set up pages on MySpace and Plaxo, which unfortunately are languishing right now. Which brings me to the point: don’t spread yourself too thin. Yes, there are all these sites out there that you can network across, but unless you have time to network 24/7+, you’ll probably just want to focus on the one or two that are most effective for you and easiest to keep up with.

Professional vs. Personal
We all know the lines between professional and personal can easily become blurred. The same is true online, perhaps even more so. My LinkedIn page is strictly professional, but while my Facebook page is heavily weighted toward the personal side, I often delve into the professional realm with my updates, pages I’ve set up, and the applications I use. And while I appreciate the personal social interaction Facebook provides, I’m conservative with my activities (not to be confused with politically conservative) and choose not to engage in snowball fights or do the bidding of Werewolves.

Macro vs. Micro Social Networks
There is some chatter out there that “macro” social networking sites like the ones I’ve listed above are soon to be a thing of the past as people begin engaging in even smaller and smaller online communities. While I understand the concept of providing social users with a more focused and engaging experience and I agree that these networking sites are very much in their infancy, the jury is still out on how the sphere of social networking will evolve into the micro-engagement experience of the future.

So, for now keep your online networking focused and engaged, and you’ll be there and ready when the tide starts to turn, which it will likely do quickly and probably more than once.