tCn – The Construction Network – is now doing what I believe is called a ‘soft launch’ of its website (defined by Wikipedia as “a method for gathering data on a product’s usage and acceptance in the marketplace”).
Our offline campaign reached its initial peak with our stand at Ecobuild, and we got a lot of registrations at the show. Having overcome some last minute teething problems with our website technologies (lots of tweaking of the email messages that go out when people sign-up, or when they invite colleagues to join, for example), we are now starting to approve new tCn members.
Weeding out the spammers
This is not simply a question of pressing a button and automatically approving every application. We know some users – and their employers – will be wary of joining an online network that could lead to unwanted attentions (for example, we are keen to limit the activities of recruitment consultants). As a result, we are ‘vetting’ each new applicant. We are particularly wary of people registering from free email accounts (eg: Hotmail, Gmail, etc), and so are encouraging people to sign up from their corporate email accounts where possible.
This exclusive policy was not an easy one to adopt. We know that some individuals may be blocked from accessing social networking sites and so might use free email accounts. If we’d allowed them, tCn might have quickly gained lots of new members, but we could inadvertently have allowed spammers and others to join, and, clearly, we didn’t want that.
Therefore, we have set out to get corporate ‘buy-in’ to tCn. We want organisations to make tCn an officially sanctioned business networking site for their employees or members. Using corporate email addresses is a quick way for us to verify the credentials of individuals from those organisations, to fast-track their tCn membership, and to promote appropriate interaction between tCn users (the same policy will be applied when people join tCn’s LinkedIn group). Company email addresses are only needed for initial registration to verify users – any email address can be used once you’ve been approved (so you can retain your ‘tCn- approved’ status if you change jobs, for instance).
As well as promoting corporate groups, we also want to support existing personal networks. Thus, approved members can invite people they know; these will go through the same verification process, but once approved they will automatically be connected to the person who invited them.
Above all, we want to make tCn a safe and exclusive business networking space that (a) remains relevant and industry-specific, and (b) that promotes interaction with the people you want to network with. Is this the right approach? We’d be interested to know your views?