Social Networking Goes to Work

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Information Technology Toolbox Inc., an 8-year-old technology resource, Sept. 18 launches a social networking feature for corporate techies, giving marketers another platform to reach potential technology clients at the office.

The latest professional community feature on its Web site at http://www.ittoolbox.com/ lets members create professional profiles, post articles and link to other members of the community to share resources and pool knowledge about topics in information technology.

"We took a look at what MySpace did with personal profile and community building and thought, 'Why not allow professionals to create their own home pages on the Web?'" said Dan Morrison, IT Toolbox co-founder/CEO.

The community-generated content includes executive blogs, 700 discussion groups and an IT Toolbox Wiki, or community-edited reference guide. The site reports about 8 million page views monthly.

"As an IT professional, it is hard to keep on top of changes in software and understand how it can be used," Mr. Morrison said. "They need a place to turn to the knowledge of the IT workplace and connect with the minds of IT professionals."

Online professional networking is a trend. E-mail marketing service Constant Contact on Sept. 6 started ConnectUp, an online meeting place for time-crunched small business owners.

"While advice from industry experts and successful business leaders is invaluable, ConnectUp offers small business owners the rare opportunity to share ideas, give and take advice from the people they trust the most: entrepreneurs just like them," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, Waltham, MA.

Ms. Goodman described the 70,000 customers to www.constantcontact.com as a "community of like-minded entrepreneurs who are hungry for practical tips, advice and ideas for growing their businesses."

The service is a free extension of membership to Constant Contact, which operates on a monthly fee that starts at $15 and is based on the number of e-mail addresses used.

Since launching, more than 2,700 customers have joined the community. ConnectUp generates no revenue for its site. Instead, the space lets the company tap its customers' mindsets.

"We want to understand what's important to them, what's working for them and what's not," Ms. Goodman said. "ConnectUp allows us to learn from our customers as they learn from each other."

In contrast, the ad-supported and free-to-user site at IT Toolbox contextually matches content with advertiser messaging. It serves 500 ad clients including Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle.

Ad client and New York data software provider Information Builders Inc. has distributed white papers on IT Toolbox for nearly four years on a cost-per-lead basis. Chris Boylan, manager of Internet marketing at Information Builders, called the ability for a marketer to compartmentalize by technology sector a big advantage. IT Toolbox has 28 unique sites that segment the market.

Mr. Boylan expects more leads based on the new feature, which he coined "MySpace for IT geeks." With more user-generated content on the site, he expects better targeting and more traffic. The profiles add demographic information to improve targeting.

"We might be spending a bit more ... for the same ad plan," he said. "We'll be getting the same quality leads, just more of them. With more content and more leads, we're happy and [IT Toolbox] is happy."

IT Toolbox has more than 1 million registered users and hopes to convert these users into profiled members following the launch.

"The opportunity is to`` advertise in a high-trust environment," said George Krautzel, co-founder and president of IT Toolbox. "The fear with using something like MySpace or Friendster is it's unpredictable and unprotected. This is a tool that people use at work, so they are in a decision-making mindset."

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