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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Both LinkedIn and ZoomInfo have announced new service developments recently. But while the mighty LinkedIn continues to branch out through acquisitions, ZoomInfo is boxing clever with new software to attack the perennial bugbear of user-generated content: how to keep it up to date. LinkedIn is acquiring, for undisclosed terms, a service called ChoiceVendor, which provides ratings and reviews of business-to-business service providers in more than 70 categories across the United States (http://digbig.com/5bckss). It's LinkedIn's second acquisition this year; in August it snapped up mSpoke, which analyses web content and alerts users to items of interest (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e30034). mSpoke continues with business as usual -- but ChoiceVendor's acquisition coincided with an immediate shutdown of its site, which currently simply shows a message announcing the deal (http://www.choicevendor.com/). However Google's cached version shows that the service encouraged contributors to read and write reviews of B2B vendors they dealt with, all for free -- and vendors weren't charged for inclusion in the database either (http://digbig.com/5bckst). Monetising its service may have been the next challenge for this not quite two-year old start-up -- but now that problem's out of its hands as LinkedIn no doubt prepares to integrate its services with the main offering, and presumably expand ChoiceVendor's reach beyond the US. Meanwhile ZoomInfo has announced a new platform to power a suite of applications designed for businesspeople in sales, marketing, business development and recruiting. Details are still to come, but ZoomInfo's new offering will include a free business directory of organisations and employees, plus an advanced searching and alerts application targeted by business or a person's name. There will be free access to fee-based tools for users who share information about their contacts -- rather as Jigsaw encourages executives to trade in data for virtual currency (see Penny Crossland at http://www.vivavip.com/go/e16917). A further application lets customer relationship management systems like Jigsaw's owner Salesforce into the ZoomInfo database, and there's an Enterprise Solutions package providing customised solutions for clients. Enhancements to ZoomInfo's proprietary software will enable it to update entries by intelligently reading news sources, as well as automatically creating business and employee profiles and working out when and how they need to be amended (http://digbig.com/5bcksw). In her comparative review for VIP last May, Penny Crossland found LinkedIn 'robust and sophisticated' but in need of smarter filters, ZoomInfo a useful one-stop search destination but not necessarily accurate enough for business research purposes, and Jigsaw generally useful despite its sales & marketing focus. With business networks innovating vigorously to address such concerns, the issue for members now may be how long the benefit of having such close competitors is outweighed by the need to spend time maintaining a presence in up to three separate places. (The VIP report can be purchased from http://web.freepint.com/go/shop/report/1651 and it's also part of a FreePint Volume of Critical Insight on Social Media, which additionally includes two FUMSI Reports on social media and can be purchased at http://web.freepint.com/go/shop/volume/1689).

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