Social networking sites are now without question the most important web-driven form of communication around today. But it’s a digital jungle that can easily overwhelm the casual visitor. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get your bearing before you set out. The good news is that once you’ve learned your way around the social networking universe, you will gain access to people and organizations that lead you to opportunities you might never have discovered otherwise.This is a very brief introduction to the most important social networking sites. For more detailed information, sign up for our newsletter and receive our new mini e-course on how to use social networking sites in your career search (available after Jan 1, 2011.FacebookFacebook is a free-access social networking Web site that people use to stay in touch, share information and reconnect with people. After an initial sign-up, users create profiles including photos and personal interests. They are then able to exchange private and public messages and join groups of friends on different networks organized by city, workplace, school and region.The site’s features include the Wall, a space on the profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see; Pokes, which allows users to send a virtual “poke” to one another; and Status, which allows users to inform others of their whereabouts and actions. Facebook was founded in February 2004 by Harvard University sophomore Mark Zuckerberg, who expanded an online university community. Facebook is a privately held company and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.TwitterTwitter is a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices including TwitterMobile and Facebook. It is a social networking instant messaging and micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters. Simply put, Twitter allows people to be able to know what friends are doing in real time. It’s a great place for keeping people informed on what you are up to without the need to spend too much time crafting a blog.After an initial sign-up, updates are played on a user’s profile page and delivered to others who have signed up to receive them. Twitter launched in August 2006 by Jack Dorsey as a research and development project of his work with Obvious, a creative environment in San Francisco.LinkedInLinkedIn is a professional networking site that people use to find, be introduced to and collaborate with other professionals. A brief sign-up process allows users to create a profile that summarizes professional expertise and accomplishments. Then users can connect to others by inviting business contacts to join LinkedIn and contact them. Your network consists of your Connections, your Connections’ Connections and the people they know.LinkedIn allows a person to find jobs and business opportunities. Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. Job seekers can review the profiles of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them. Linkedln Answers allows users to ask questions for the community to answer. Users can join business-related groups. LinkedIn was founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman and launched the next year.MyspaceMyspace is a free online community that people use to stay in touch with friends and family, share information and meet new friends. After an initial sign-up, users create an in-depth profile about personal interests that includes photos. The site integrates the profile with blogs, instant messaging, e-mail, music streaming, music videos, photo galleries, classified listings, events groups and other communities and forums.Most people use Myspace for fun, to keep in touch with friends and family, browse musician profiles and explore areas dedicated to TV shows or movies. For artists and others who maintain a public image, Myspace is an important connection to fans.Launched in 2003, Myspace is a unit of Fox Interactive Media Inc. and was founded by Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, who mimicked the popular features of a previous social networking Web site, Friendster.
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