Hoover's launches professional networking tool

Hoover's Connect can leverage Outlook contact lists to expand professional networks

Hoover's Wednesday announced that it is launching a business social networking tool that promises to help users find ways to connect with people and establish new relationships.

Hoover's Connect will allow Hoover's subscribers to build their professional networks by using automatic evaluating Outlook e-mail and calendar programs. An algorithm in the tool evaluates the strength of those connections and rates them accordingly, Hoover's said. In addition, users themselves can evaluate the potential for a particular networking opportunity based on their own Outlook contacts.

Once the evaluation is completed, a user can link to a particular company record in Hoover's online business listings, click on "Connect," and various referral paths will appear, highlighting the strongest path within a user's network.

A beta version of the tool has been available for free on Hoover's site for the past year,

In related news, Hoover's today also said that it has signed an agreement to acquire corporate social networking company Visible Path, which provided the technology platform for Hoover's Connect. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Hoover's Connect keeps me in touch with past and current colleagues and allows me to build a network of new relationships that are relevant to my industry and experiences," said Andy Sweis, senior business intelligence analyst at PepsiCo Inc., in a statement. "The technology searches both my information and that of my colleagues to establish new relationships based on appropriate matches. Hoover's Connect saves me time and effort by eliminating the need to search manually for connections that might help form new, beneficial business relationships."

The service has privacy settings that give users full control over what is and is not searched, Hoover's said. A user's e-mail content is never searched. Users also have the option of either remaining cloaked or identifying themselves when using the service.

Hoover's President David Mather said that Hoover's Connect is the first offering to link insight about who to contact for networking with the tools that can allow action from that information without interrupting workflow.

The goal of the service is to take advantage of research from the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill business schools showing that an introduction made through a trusted source is up to 16 times more likely to yield a response than a cold call, the company noted.

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