The best business networking apps make it simple and easy to get the right professional and business contacts online.
The advent of the internet has been a boon to business networking - it's no longer the case that you have to wait to make business contacts at events and conferences, you can now connect with them online.
The tricky part is being able to identify the people you need to reach out, but again the internet simplifies this process, especially through semi-social business networking websites.
These are especially useful, because they not only provide information on the person's business background and credentials, you can also find other people connected to them.
The overall result is that it's no longer so difficult to find suppliers and contractors, and that with only minimal research you can now find exactly who you need to look for.
Here then are the best in business networking apps and websites, though the first one featured will likely come as no surprise to most people.
- We've also highlighted the best social media management tools.
Ask anyone about business networking online, and they’ll most likely mention LinkedIn, as the classic example of a widely used solution.
However, it has taken 15 years and the acquisition of 17 other networking and contact management companies to make it the top dog. And, in 2016 it was itself bought by Microsoft.
The model behind LinkedIn is straightforward enough, allowing users to create a profile that then enables others to find and connect with them for business purposes.
Protection against unwarranted invites is inbuilt, and users can restrict what information is available about them. But what most people like is that they can share their trusted business associates with others, creating a community of connected and approved people. The only real criticism is that the default email settings leave you open to a potentially large number of pointless updates and marketing information.
However, while business networking remains LinkedIn's core business, it has since branched out into providing job search listings, as well as business training courses through LinkedIn Learning.
It used to be the case that Facebook was arguably the most connected social media website in the world. Although it still is the largest, and continues to grow, a lot of the earlier adopters have moved on.
Even still, Facebook is still an amazing way to connect with people, with the caveat that it's less of a professional networking site than LinkedIn. Although businesses can set up business profiles and pages and interact using these, Facebook is probably best known for making personal connections.
In that regard, Facebook has grown into an absolute behemoth when it comes to absolute numbers of users, but it also comes with the cost of privacy. While that hasn't put off most users, it does mean that business users may feel a little more wary about the connections and content they make within the Facebook walled garden.
Overall, though, chances are that there are many business contacts you can make on Facebook, just on a more personal level than dedicated business networking apps. It's not to be overlooked though, and remains a key part of any business presence.
Regular messaging applications like Hangouts weren’t specifically built for business users, but GroupMe was, and you can also use it for personal connections.
The GroupMe app is available for Android, iOS, and Windows 10, but users with other devices can also be connected via SMS using your address book. This makes the service accessible even for users with older phones, or who would prefer not to download apps.
GroupMe operates much like a private chat room, where any message can be seen by all those in the group, allowing them to react to information sent to each other. Private messages are possible, but it isn’t the default mode of this tool.
In addition to text-based communication, GroupMe also supports pictures, videos, documents and web hyperlinks in its exchanges.
It was bought by Skype in 2011, which in turn was bought by Microsoft earlier that same year.
There are two components to Bizzabo, one for those that attend conferences and another for the businesses that organize them.
Where the mobile app for attendees is free, the management tools to connect all those people costs money. How much depends on the integration needed with other software, and how much information you want to extract about the attendees.
For anyone attending a conference run using Bizzabo, the mobile app is a no-brainer, as it allows you to connect with exactly the people you’d like to meet in what might be a confused and crowded environment.
Existing LinkedIn users won’t even need to register their information, as the app can access your profile, and also the LinkedIn profiles of other attendees.
Invitly is another professional business networking app, which is members-only making it a little smaller but more exclusive than other business networking apps. It also means it's harder for spammers to use the app.
The aim is to ensure that only like-minded professionals can connect with each other, allowing for an exchange of ideas and feedback within the community itself. There are also mentoring and training service options available, to help with personal and professional development.
You can also use it to arrange business meetings with other users who you might not normally have been aware of, to help with general development - with the caveat that while it's a global platform, the smaller number of users than other apps means that these contacts could be limited to online-only.
However, if you're looking for an alternative to LinkedIn, Invitly may be worth your while trying out.