According to Sunil Apta, head of marketing at Harvard Business School, mobile users on average spend 82% of their mobile minutes using apps, while the remaining 18% is spent browsing the web. With over one million mobile apps on the market, and with more added every day, it can be a challenge to sift through countless applications to find those that add both convenience and value when it comes to growing your business.
In addition to games, entertainment, social networking, organization and utilities (i.e. things such as maps and clocks), there are numerous mobile and web apps for business and professional networking. By far, one of the most popular is LinkedIn, which currently reigns as the No. 1 website for developing professional networks and uncovering new business opportunities.
However, for professionals who are looking for apps that offer niche services and tools tailored to their industry and function, the following is a short list of the top networking apps that can deliver both social value and unique benefits to your company.
AngelList: Connecting Investors and Startups
If you’re a startup company or an angel investor looking for the next big venture, then AngelList is a platform that can help you connect with the right partners and make deals happen. If you’re an investor, you can start on AngelList by building a profile page containing your investment criteria, current investments and what sector you specialize in. As of September 2013, startups can raise money publicly on AngelList (as well as any online or offline media platform) so long as the money is given by an accredited investor.
In addition to a jobs database for candidates seeking work with startups, AngelList users can check activity feeds that reveal which markets users are following, recent introductions and which investors have committed funding. Startups looking for backup funding can also list their venture in specific categories, as well as get “featured” as an interesting company for investors to look out for. Because AngelList thrives on a growing user base, which in turn grows the number of available startup investments, membership is free.
Biznik: Location-Specific Networking
Biznik allows you to tailor your networking search according to your locale. Founded in 2005 in Seattle, Biznik differentiates itself from other social networks by providing more opportunities for face-to-face interaction through channels such as video conferences and events. In fact, Biznik is a professional network specifically for independent businesspeople looking to make personal offline and online connections in the cities where they do business.
Like other professional networks, you create a profile for yourself and your business that can be optimized for the site’s search functionality. Perhaps one of the standout features of Biznik is the ability to post events and register Biznik members interested in attending. You can also publish articles you’ve written in Biznik’s “Articles” database, which are searchable by keyword and popularity.
EFactor: For Building Partnerships and Clients
Another entrepreneurial network that can boost your business development is EFactor (short for “the entrepreneur factor”). Claiming itself as the “World’s largest network of entrepreneurs,” the app operates along the same concept as AngelList. However, EFactor focuses on connecting aspiring entrepreneurs with partners and customers who can help make their business ideas come to fruition.
With over 800,000 members, EFactor delivers features and tools that help users develop their business ideas from start to finish. This includes giving entrepreneurs access to its 25,000-plus investor network, as well as the ability to review professional and investment advice at a discounted rate.
EFactor users can either be entrepreneurs or investors and can register on the site for free. Given the costs usually associated with the ideation and funding processes, EFactor can be a helpful app for new independent owners looking for new business opportunities on a small budget. EFactor also hosts paid events; however, admission fees usually run under $10.
Lanyrd: Conferences and Events Made Easy
Besides building your business through traditional advertising and word-of-mouth, industry conferences remain one of the key promotional tools used to generate sales leads. Lanyrd is a networking app that acts as a social conference directory where members can add conferences, workshops, speaking engagements and other events to the site’s database. The networking app is free and provides a host of global listings in a centralized location, in addition to the ability for Lanyrd users to connect with other members following similar events.
As a Lanyrd member, you’ll find that the site operates much like a wiki, allowing users to add and edit conference information, slides, video, podcasts and slide presentations. You can search for conferences by location, topic and year. There’s also a speaker directory for users looking for industry experts to present at their next event.
LinkedIn: The Mother of All Networking Apps
Considered the “granddaddy” of professional networks, LinkedIn currently ranks as the top professional networking website, according to PCMag.com. In fact, the review site goes on to state that anyone serious about their career should definitely be on LinkedIn due to the app’s reputation as the most important cross-industry professional network.
In addition to a robust job board, LinkedIn allows both individuals and companies to create professional groups where there are opportunities to post questions to group members; users can also “like” and comment on discussion threads and contact members privately. Users build a profile that acts as an online resume, listing current and previous jobs, volunteer work, publications, and recommendations from colleagues and supervisors.
As far as its mobile capabilities, LinkedIn is available on iOS and Android systems. However, its new LinkedIn Contacts feature, which pulls address books, personal calendars, conversations and emails into a central location, is only available for the web and iPhone users. In addition to its pure networking power, LinkedIn helps you keep on top of colleagues’ birthdays, schedule appointments with partners and add notes about important events.
Xing: For European Networking
Any seasoned professional will tell you that some of the best jobs come from not necessarily what you know, but who you know. Xing is an online platform for business networking, with mobile apps available for iPhone, iPad and Android users. The site offers connection services, an extensive job database and ample app support. Xing also helps you keep your contacts’ phone numbers, emails, birthdays, job titles and other information up to date with Xing’s notification system
Despite being a direct competitor of LinkedIn, the majority of Xing’s users – and jobs – are located in Europe (Xing was started in Hamburg, Germany). For American job seekers and small business owners looking to stay primarily within the U.S., LinkedIn may prove a more useful app for connecting with potential partners and building a U.S.-centric industry network. However, if you’re a small business or independent owner keen on finding European professionals with similar interests and skills, then Xing is a platform that can help expand your global contact list and jumpstart your European job search.