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Create Your Own Online Network It can grow right along with your company--and help your company grow.

By Julien Sharp

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, you want to be on the lookout for the newest trends that help keep you lean and profitable. One thing you may want to consider is implementing an online network as an integral part of your business.

As a person with strong entrepreneurial spirit, you may already be running one or more businesses. You may be running each by yourself or you may have employees of varying numbers. Starting an online network within your existing businesses can be a great way to increase the profits of those businesses.

A great number of larger corporations have already discovered that opening up the gateways of communication through an internal social network has allowed them to learn more about employees, particularly their hidden talents, talents that may be tapped into as the company grows.

Interestingly, the idea of creating a proprietary social network is not just for large organizations. Today, an increasing number of small businesses are embracing online networks, particularly as the workforce becomes more and more filled with employees who have spent their entire lives online.

If you own a small business, or businesses, one of the main reasons you should consider adding an online networking component is that the best time to make an online network part of your company culture is when the company is small. It can then stay in place and grow along with your company. As a small-business owner, you likely wear multiple hats and, even with your handy PDA, you may have a difficult time getting easy access to all the information you need about your employees in a single place. By using an online network you can keep track of--and have immediate access to--information about what each employee is currently working on, and what experience they have from previous positions.

Your company may have employees operating from remote locations. Setting up an internal online network will allow those employees to interact with one another--and with you--without leaving their desks, allowing for more personalization, and less isolation.

Finally, if you more than one small business, implementing an online network gives you the power to gather information across your businesses, search for the best employees for particular tasks, and establish greater collaboration between you and your employees.

Internal online networks are dynamic and allow employees to use virtually all the features they would find on Facebook, or even LinkedIn, including social networking, tagging and profiles. There are many hosted applications that cater to this market segment. Because of this, even the smallest companies have access to robust technologies at affordable prices.

Larger businesses have already jumped on the bandwagon, particularly in the last couple of years, but the time is right--and the software is here--for smaller businesses to profit from an internal online networking component as well.

Julien Sharp is the author of Design and Launch an Online Networking Business in a Week, and a contributing author to Masters of Sales: Secrets From Top Sales Professionals That Will Transform You Into A World Class Salesperson by Ivan Misner, PhD and Don Morgan, MA, both available from Entrepreneur Press.

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