Today, most professionals maintain an online presence on at least one networking website. Whether on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, your professional goal in social networking is to connect with people who hold similar or related jobs and to build mutually beneficial relationships. But sometimes these networks can feel crowded and diluted. In these cases, you should consider joining an industry-specific social network. These focused networks can offer content and relationships better suited to your professional goals.
To assist in evaluating and choosing a niche networking site, we suggest four key factors:
1. Industry Specific
While it’s good to have an industry standard such as LinkedIn in your social networking arsenal, when it comes to career growth, it is most useful to connect with others in similar careers and industries. So it often makes more sense to shift your networking to a platform specifically created for your industry. Some networks, like AngelList, can be very specific, providing a network for those investing in and working at start-ups. While others like Experts Exchange, can offer a broader base of members across multiple industries and careers, giving you access to millions of technology professionals around the world. Fundamentally, it is important to surround yourself with professionals who are looking to create connections, in your native professional language.
2. Constant Communication
Just because professionals are in the network does not mean they are effectively “networking.” Look for a network that promotes member communication. What good is finding a relevant community if members don’t communicate openly and safely with others? Look for important features that foster interactions. Features like community-appointed moderators, open participation guidelines, direct messaging, connection building, and brand ambassador programs, all work together to cultivate positive engagement. And most importantly, the network must support a collaboration-friendly environment, where professionals are met with “positive” feedback and answers based on personal experiences, rather than being discouraged by negativity and so-called “trolling.”
3. Targeted Professional Collaboration
Are you looking for industry/topic specific conversations with other members? Good social networks allow members to build groups for large-scale discussions, encouraging interested members to join and contribute to the dialogue. Career advice, industry trends or detailed how-to questions are more effectively discussed in specific groups, because they give members conversations that are more relevant to their specific career.
4. Advance Your Career
From your personal profile to discussion pages, a good social network provides members the opportunity to share and build their skills through participation. Your network profile is where you can display your resume, relevant work, and contributed content. This profile should solidify your reputation in your field and give potential employers quick access to a comprehensive portfolio of your knowledge and experience. But niche networks are more than just another place to display your resume. By allowing you to highlight contributions and participation in the community, the network can help you demonstrate proven expertise on industry topics. With this solid profile, and key relationships built within the network, you can truly turbocharge your career.
When it comes time to decide what social network to invest in, consider all of the available options. Set yourself up on a standard like LinkedIn, but be sure to include industry-specific networks in your strategy, as they can provide more targeted networking. By assessing networks using the four factors above, you can maximize your professional connections, and optimize future career opportunities.
This article was originally featured on the WIRED Innovation Insights blog.