With over 120 million members (as of 8/4/2011) and a new-member sign-up rate of two per second, LinkedIn is the undisputed leader of the “professional” social-networking scene. Still, some people have a problem with LinkedIn’s conservative design scheme. They want something that represents the excitement and passion that comes from loving what you do.
A number of web apps have cropped up to satisfy these more design-oriented folks (see our roundup of six of them), and each creates a stylish personal-splash page that you can attach to your email signature, print on your business card, or whatever.
Zerply, a new web app that launched last month, is both the same as these “personal-splash page” apps and different from them. Let’s find out how.
Created by a diverse team of Europeans and Americans, Zerply is a professional network based on the value of “serious play.” Members can choose from several stylishly designed profile pages and connect with other members based not on whether they know each other, but on whether they share the same skills and passions.
Creating an account on Zerply is as simple as connecting your Twitter or Facebook accounts. Give Zerply permission, and it will pull out the data it needs to get you started (email, location, first and last name, etc.). From there, creating your personal profile page is a four-step process.
The first step in the process, “Who are you?,” asks you to create a one-line description of who you are, as well as a short biography to provide a little more detail. It also asks for a set of tags that describe you (i.e., “writer,” “teacher,” “designer,” “entrepreneur,” “ux,” etc.).
The second step, “Your background?,” is where you add the basic items you’d find on a resume, namely, “Experience” and “Education.”
The third step, “To top it off,” asks you to connect your profile page to the various web services where people can find out more about you: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Posterous, FourSquare, etc. You can also link to your website, your portfolio, or any other web address you want. After adding the services, you upload (or import from Twitter or Facebook) a profile picture that will reside at the top of your profile page.
The final step, “Activate your Profile,” is where you choose from one of a few highly-designed themes for your profile page and set your email privacy.
Zerply includes three templates for your profile page (as well as a fourth template that only gets unlocked once you’ve referred three new members to the service). The templates are different enough in style to satisfy most everyone’s taste. As long as you’re not looking for something that’s plain vanilla, you should find a template that works for you.
Now, for the networking…
Most of the personal-profile apps create stand-alone pages that you’re supposed to use as your online business card. Zerply’s profile page is no different: it covers the basics of who you are, what you do, and where someone can find out more about you.
But unlike those other apps, Zerply also includes a networking feature to help you discover people who might be of interest to you, whether because they’re in your neighborhood, they’re in the same field as you, or they share a special skill (i.e., “Photoshop”).
Once you’ve found people, you can save them as a contact, endorse their particular skills, and use the information on their profile pages to hook up with them on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
LinkedIn, but not really…
The number of web apps that allow you to share articles you like, find articles from people you trust, or simply update a status message are too numerous to mention, but the major players include your Facebook feed, your Twitter homepage, and LinkedIn (whether through the updates page, groups, or LinkedIn Today).
What I really appreciate about Zerply is that it doesn’t try to join this group. It doesn’t have a “feed” or a “Zerply Today” page or a group feature. It’s all about helping you connect with people, and then pushing you to where those people are. After all, why follow someone on Zerply when you can follow them on Twitter (where they’re probably 1,000x more active)?
Endorsing your connections
Zerply also gives you the ability to endorse the work and skills of other members of the network. With the web app’s widgets, you can then share these endorsements on your blog or portfolio. As Zerply writes on their website, “We see it as more than a Facebook like, but less than a LinkedIn recommendation – it speaks of the person behind the content.”
My one suggestion for the endorsements is that they should be included in the templates for the member’s profile page, especially since many people will market the profile page in their email signatures and in their Twitter or Facebook profiles.
The folks behind Zerply have obviously put a lot of time and effort into designing and developing a user-friendly and eye-friendly app. While the final profile page might not be as customizable as the ones you can build with apps such as About.Me, Zerply’s built-in templates are visually exciting while not being over the top.
I also like the networking aspect of Zerply, and as the membership grows, I can see myself using it to find freelancers to help on specific projects (or at least, adding it to my freelancer-finding toolbox).
The best part about Zerply is that it’s just getting started. The “Finding” feature only got added last week, and they just wrapped up their private beta at the beginning of July. So the best part is not what’s on Zerply now; it’s what the talented team behind Zerply might have cooking for tomorrow (can you say, a “messaging” feature?).
In short, Zerply is a web app to keep your eye on.