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Regional alternative to LinkedIn takes hold

InTheLoop.me founder says professional networking site is popular with senior executives

Regional alternative to LinkedIn takes hold
Founder Rony El-Nashar says more people are registering on InTheLoop.me because of word of mouth.

Middle Eastern professional networking site InTheLoop.me is gradually gaining a solid foothold in the region, mainly through word of mouth marketing.

The site, which was launched just four months ago, already has more than 6,000 registered members. Most InTheLoop members are from the United Arab Emirates, despite being a smaller market compared to the larger Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which founder Rony El-Nashar attributes to the success of word of mouth marketing.

"These types of networks grow by word of mouth, via the viral effect. Yes, we're also running advertisements on Facebook and Google Ads but that's the spark that creates the usage that creates the word of mouth. Traditional ads go hand in hand with word of mouth and social media advertising, which has become very very popular these days."

Comparisons to international sites that offer similar services such as LinkedIn and Xing do not faze El-Nashar.

"I started the site as a professional networking destination specifically targeted to the Middle East and North Africa region. It was founded on the belief that the value of your network is highest from those that are close to where you do business. It's so far been very popular with senior level executives and people in the finance and IT industry," he explained.

InTheLoop.me targets professionals that already have jobs but are interested in meeting other like-minded professionals and networking. It's open to people from all sectors in every Arab country, and does not restrict people outside the Middle East from becoming members as long as they share a "mutual interest in the region".

This month, InTheLoop will introduce premium VIP and VVIP subscription packages that offer added benefits including being able to see who has viewed your profile and preference in search listings - VVIPs will always be listed first in specific search results, followed by VIPs and then other basic members.

Though prices for the VIP and VVIP subscriptions are yet to be determined, El-Nashar says it will be in the range of $10 to $20 dollars and asserts that introducing a ‘paid' model is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Any business has to be monetised in some way, you cannot just run a business without a plan for revenue streams. When you look at professional social networks like LinkedIn and Xing in Europe, they both have premium memberships that provide features over and beyond what's found in the basic memberships."

El-Nashar, who is currently in the process of closing an investment deal for a portion of the capital needed, admits that he's still looking for more investors for the business. Without divulging exact figures, he says the amount is "definitely reasonable when compared to other internet start-ups in the US".

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