This month's issue is our annual Buyer's Guide. Inside you'll find the most complete listing of industry manufacturers, wholesalers, buying groups and products with up-to-date contact information, including phone, e-mail and Web sites. But next year we may need to include another means of communication: where to become their "fan" or "colleague." AKA, their social network statuses.

Social networking sites are experiencing rapid growth, especially in light of today's economy. This article discusses three popular networks: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These sites are a great way for distributors to get information out to the masses (of course you can find Sanitary Maintenance on all these sites, too). But while these three may be the biggest, they might not actually be the best way to reach your target audience.

Vertical social networking sites, however, are limited in scope and are designed for a very specific membership. It is generally said that users of vertical sites aren't just connecting, but they are "connecting about something." You can find a vertical social networking site for just about everything, from dog-lovers to accountants. Even the cleaning industry has a vertical social networking site: myCleanLink.

Full disclosure: myCleanLink is run by Trade Press Media Group, the parent company of Sanitary Maintenance. So, of course I want this product to be successful, but in all honesty, a vertical site like myCleanLink is a perfect way for distributors to connect with their intended customers. Members of myCleanLink are building service contractors, in-house service professionals, in addition to jan/san distributors and other cleaning experts and associations.

The benefits of myCleanLink would be the same as other social Web sites. You can create a profile to promote your company and update customers. You can start a blog to share your views on the industry and communicate with colleagues in the forums. There are even group pages that filter specific information, such as green, technology or schools. But, the added benefit to a vertical site is you know your efforts will reach cleaning professionals.