Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

LinkedIn – We have all heard of it. Most of us have a profile on it. Truthfully, I don’t pay that much attention to my LinkedIn, mostly because I have a job that I like and I am not that concerned with finding a new one. That may not always be the case, but for now, I’m good. Anyway, LinkedIn launched in May 2003 as a site where professionals could network as well as look for a job, and companies could post open positions. LinkedIn has over 106 million active users being both individuals seeking positions and employers looking to fill open positions. LinkedIn lets all users create profiles and form “connections” to others. This is online social job networking, so to speak.

BNI (Business Network International) - This is an organization dedicated to helping business growth. There are physical meetings held where members get together and pass business referrals amongst themselves.  The idea here is that up close and personal gatherings help you get to know fellow members so that you feel comfortable passing business on to them. It’s like everyone in the room is a salesperson for your business. Apparently it does work because it is reported that in 2017 members generated $13.6 BILLION dollars in referral revenue for member businesses. 

Both of these organizations, for lack of a better phrase, have their good points and their bad points. LinkedIn is sleek and modern. Everything is done online, quick and easy. But, LinkedIn is geared more toward individuals. It really is not set up to help business growth. BNI has a great system in place to help business growth but it is based on a lot of “old school” ways like in-person chapter meetings and face to face one-on-ones. Who has time for all that these days? If only someone would step up, take the best of both and make it work.

Well, someone did. In January 2014, Alignable — The Small Business Network—came to life as a way to promote small business. The site has a LinkedIn feel to it with everything being online but it has a BNI quality about it, as it was created to help small businesses connect with each other and grow through word- of-mouth and referrals. What could be better? The creators of Alignable contend that they did a lot of research before they created the content for this site and the one thing that they ran across over and over was the desire of small businesses to reach out or connect with other small businesses near them. 

I honestly had never heard of Alignable until just a couple of months ago. One of my vendor reps sent over an e-mail invitation to join. Since I am always interested in things like this, I accepted the invitation on behalf of my company. 

First off, it’s free. Even if it doesn’t work, nothing lost except a little bit of time. Your company sets up a profile, much like any other user site. You get a profile and a cover picture much like Facebook. You can also connect your Alignable page to your Facebook page if you want.  There are multiple sections that you need to fill out such as Our Ideal Customer, About Us, Products & Services, etc. The more information you give, the easier it is for others to know you and know what you do so they can help you. You can then search for nearby businesses to connect with, or Alignable will suggest connections for you. Looking at our page right now, we have 12 connections and 231 suggested connections. Once you are connected you can send messages back and forth and get to know other businesses. 

Your business profile will also have multiple pages. Besides your Home page there is My Network, My Community, Messages, etcetera, but the one I really like is the Q & A Forum. If a small business has any kind of question, they can post it on that forum and get trusted answers from other small businesses. You can also answer a question from another business and show off your smarts. 

It’s another way for businesses to know who you are and what you’re about.

Are there any downsides or drawbacks? I am not too sure about any negative issues, as we have not been on the site that long, but I do see two possible issues. The first one is Alignable’s enthusiasm. I am all for energy and positivity, but Alignable seems to send me a lot of e-mail messages. Some are introductions from Alignable staff who want to assist me. Some have tips for use and some are suggested connections. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you have to remember that while you are getting all these messages, you are also getting messages from your connections. It can be a bit overwhelming if you aren’t careful.

The only other issue I’ve noticed is their mobile app. I cannot download their mobile app because I have an Android device. The Alignable app is only available to Apple users. However, even if I had an iPhone I think I would hesitate to download this app. It only has a 2.2 rating out of 5 in the App Store, and the reviews are not good. One fairly recent review suggested that the mobile app will be the downfall of Alignable. Another one suggests that the app development must have gone to the lowest bidder. I hope the Alignable folks listen to their reviews and make a more user-friendly, all device-compatible app. 

Alignable: does it work? They have plenty of reviews and testimonials to indicate that it does. As for our shop, I guess we will have to wait and see. If you have any experience with Alignable, good or bad, I would love to hear about it.

Please send your comments to Sharon Koehler at .