There is nothing cute or sexy about LinkedIn, but when it comes time to wean yourself from the parentals, you'll be thankful for this more business-oriented network. LinkedIn has over 12.5 million users and is growing at a rate of approximately 200,000 per week. Think LinkedIn is too uncool if you're still in school? Guess again: "Students can use LinkedIn to find mentors and to perform research," said Kay Luo, a spokesperson for LinkedIn. "It's a great place to find industry contacts for research papers and case studies. It's wise to establish relationships and maintain your network before you need it."
WIRED Nearly half of LinkedIn's users are over 34, meaning they have the money and power to get you a job.
TIRED Once you make useful contacts, what do you do with them? You can't share much content on LinkedIn beyond a souped-up resume, so be sure you get real contact information along with your introductions. Then invite your new contacts to Facebook -- it'll make them feel young and hip.
When you're ready to network outside of the United States, Bebo is a good place to start. It is the third-largest social network in the space, with the majority of its users in the U.K.
WIRED Bebo is great for music lovers: The site links directly to iTunes music. Bebo Bands, which launched in July 2006, is the home of over 20,000 group and artist profiles.
TIRED It isn't that easy to find friends. Bebo will search through your address book for people you already know, but finding new friends by location or interest is not that easy if you don't join groups.
Another way to make friends beyond the 50 states is hi5, a social network with over 60 million registered members. "Since members post photos and content about themselves, new students can get to know each other better using hi5," said Ramu Yalamanchi, chief executive officer for hi5. "They can also stay in touch and see how summer break was spent." The site is the number one social-networking location in Mexico, South America and Central America. Yalamanchi said 30 percent of hi5 members are from Europe, 25 percent from hispanohablantes, or Spanish speaking markets, and 23 percent from North America.
WIRED Most hi5ers are between 15 to 25 years old, making it useful for back-to-school time.
TIRED If you don't habla Español, hi5 may not be for you.
Poor Friendster has a bit of a social-network-that-was reputation, but it still has over 47 million users in 75 countries. It may not dominate the American social-networking market but it has a strong international presence. The site had 9.5 billion page views in June, with the average user staying online for 208 minutes.
"In the back-to-school period, it kicks into overdrive," said Jeff Roberto, a spokesperson for Friendster. "On the homepage, you can add up to three schools and three colleges to your profile. Every time you add a school, we go and find the same people that went to that school during the same years and pull all those profiles to you so that you can discover new people and new content relevant to your school."
Since Friendster requires users be at least 16 to sign up, it is less useful for high school students than for college and post-college students.
WIRED School-centric profile searches makes it easy to find new friends at your new school -- or old friends at your old school.