Online networking! or (as depressing as it might be) - "social networking" as it is increasingly referred to. Yes those troublesome days of actually having the stress of meeting someone face to face seem to be coming to an end. Anti-socialites and recluses rejoice, there need never be a reason for you to leave the house ever again.
So does this mean in 20yrs we'll all be doomed to a life of solitude save the companionship of our laptop and and 10 million MB internet connection? perhaps. But first, it's time to use the big players of the new online networking craze to our advantage, take Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for example.
Facebook is addictive, there is a chance that lots of people you know are on it, its highly sociable, and everyone knows how to work it. From a business point of view however it can be of questionable relevance. When one tries to promote corporate business on Facebook it can feel like you're the one who talks about his career when on holiday, it feels unwelcome in an otherwise bustling social atmosphere.
Close in ideology but with far greater professional benefit is Twitter, allowing you to shout any sentence or two that you feel others may have an interest in - you may follow and be followed. Excellent for job advertising, special offer promotion, or quick promotion of any web based product for that matter. The only issue is the collection of relevant followers. Can be tricky to acheive, but the results will pay off once a healthy audience is amassed.
Finally comes the messiah of business networking, ooohhh its like Facebook has grown up - yes ladies and gentleman we're talking about LinkedIn. Business connections... introductions... recommendations... experiences... company profiles... interest groups.... the shear wealth of information available boggles the mind. Particularly useful should you be lucky enough to possess cunning detective Sherlock-Holmes-style skills when on a fact/contact-finding mission.
There is SO much documentation out there about use of LinkedIn you can bury yourself if you arent careful in the quicksand that is internet-based-research. Have a nose around and if you have any specific concerns, put a well worded question into Google, that should ping up some relevant, decipherable answers... If you havent already, sign up, have a look for people you know on there, then you'll see the people they know, you can even search the people they know - looking for introductions, exchanging services, the works.
At the rate things are going there are going to be ten more sites this time next year, best thing to do is try and keep up where possible, heads up for 'Google OS X' and 'Google Wave'... They could be big news in the near future. But for now Link yourself In and shout about it on Twitter!!