While LinkedIn has more or less cornered the professional social networking market, new entrants are targeting niche sectors of the business world. One Boston-based startup, Alignable, launched a social network in January 2014 to connect small businesses that can cooperate with each other due to physical proximity.
Alignable is currently operating local networks in around 7,000 communities across the U.S. and Canada and has forged over half a million connections between small businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal. Small business owners and employees use the service to refer customers, ask advice and share ideas, as well as cooperating. BetaBoston cited one example in which a restaurant tells customers about a reading at a bookstore down the street, driving business to both.
The company just raised $8 million in a Series B round of funding led by Mayfield, with participation by previous investors Lead Edge Capital, NextView Ventures and Saturn Partners; that brings the company’s total funding to $12 million. The company will use the funding to expand the network to new communities and grow existing networks.
Alignable could also help bridge the adoption gap between small business and social media. Previously I wrote about studies showing that small businesses have lagged far behind big corporate players in adopting social media for business purposes.
One survey conducted by Endurance found that 72% of business owners said that “we don’t have a plan, we just publish when we feel like it,” and 76% said they “post to social media when we have the time.” Just 30% were using social media to post promotions, coupons, and special offers frequently, while 29% did so occasionally
Another survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf on digital signage maker Enplug, found that 63% of Facebook users said they would view a small business more favorably after seeing a positive review on its profile. However 36% of small businesses surveyed said they don’t maintain a social media presence where users can comment on their business, and 34% don’t think social media can provide any value for their businesses, period.