When it comes to using social media for professional networking, there’s little doubt that LinkedIn is a force to be reckoned with. Data from Hubspot would suggest that LinkedIn is 277% more effective at generating professional leads than Facebook or Twitter. It is also estimated that 2.74% of traffic that comes into a website from LinkedIn converts to bookings or sales compared to 0.98% of traffic from other social media platforms. This would suggest that when people search for leads through LinkedIn, they’re serious about making connections.
But there’s also no doubt that, like all social media platforms, LinkedIn has its downsides. Although the latest stats suggest that there are 347 million registered users worldwide, many of these may not be active profiles, while other important contacts may not yet be on LinkedIn. There are times when building your network can feel like a slow and time consuming process. Another criticism sometimes levelled at LinkedIn is that you can find your message folder full of spam messages and random requests to join the networks of people who haven’t had the courtesy to introduce themselves.
LinkedIn has some fabulous features but to stop it draining too much of your time – again, like other social media platforms – it’s important to be strategic to make the most of your presence.
But what if LinkedIn doesn’t feel like a good fit? Are there alternatives for anyone who wants to build their professional network, or sites that you could be using as well as LinkedIn? Would you benefit from being more actively involved in an industry-specific network?
We’ve been doing some research and put together a guide to alternatives to LinkedIn below:
Non-industry specific alternatives to LinkedIn
If you are interested in working for a start-up business or you run a start-up business and you’re looking for staff, investors, or support from within the business community, then you may find AngelList a better starting point than LinkedIn.
BranchOut is apparently the world’s largest professional network with over 800 million searchable profiles. BranchOut users utilise their social network from Facebook to discover inside connections for jobs, recruiting, and sales. If you want to tap into the power of your Facebook contacts, BranchOut may be the tool to do it.
College and University Alumni Associations
If you attended college or university, then you may find that its alumni association is a fantastic resource for professional networking. Many alumni associations advertise jobs, provide mentoring, funding opportunities, and much more. You never know who might know someone who knows someone else who’s looking for a person with your skills and experience.
Google+ is potentially an incredible tool for professional networking, combining brevity, communities, and content sharing through a platform that, for professionals, bridges the gap between Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you add your profile to Google+, you can be found in Google searches, show off a full public profile with information about what you do, share your content and links to your blog, and much more. You can categorise your contacts into Circles, use live Hangouts to chat with other professionals, and join some thriving networking and industry-specific communities.
According to the latest stats, 890 million people log on to Facebook every single day. Younger adults in the 25-34-year-old demographic have grown up with Facebook in many ways and are much more likely to blur the lines between work and pleasure than their older counterparts. As a result, more and more people are using Facebook to grow their professional network.
It’s a move you should think about carefully. Some people argue that using your Facebook profile to connect with potential employers is a way of showing you’re a fully rounded human being, while others argue that using your Facebook profile exposes you to criticism about your personal life.
If you do decide to use Facebook as an alternative to LinkedIn for professional networking, it’s important to take a close look at your profile and decide whether you would be happy for business contacts and potential employers to see everything you’ve posted. If not, you will need to delete posts you don’t want seen or adapt your privacy settings.
Experts advise that you create a simple profile or clean up your existing one, keeping graphics, widgets, and photos to a minimum. Post content that’s relevant to your job search or career and use the platform for relationship building.
Mahara is an open source web application to build an online portfolio. You can use it to create journals, upload files, embed social media resources from the web, and collaborate with other users in groups. According to the Mahara website, it is “the perfect personal learning environment mixed with social networking, allowing you to collect, reflect on, and share your achievements and development online in a space you control”. If you need an online platform to showcase your portfolio, you might want to check out Mahara.
Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups; its aim being to revitalise local communities and help bring people together to meet with others who share their interests, passions, and purpose in life. There are a large number of professional networking groups that organise events through Meetup, so this is a great tool if you would like to become involved in face-to-face networking.
Netparty is the ‘worldwide young professionals’ network’. The aim of Netparty is to help young professionals in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s connect and network. Most Netparty events begin with an extended cocktail hour which focuses on business networking and making new connections. The latter half of each event takes on a more social atmosphere. This may not be an alternative to LinkedIn but it could be a good addition to your networking arsenal.
Opprtunity is aimed at individuals looking for sales leads, employment, or job candidates. The site promises ‘a matching algorithm that finds you people who need what you offer’ and says that users only receive alerts when there is a genuine opportunity to do business based on that algorithm. The simple design and registration process (using your email or Facebook account) makes Opprtunity a pleasure to use.
PartnerUp is a Google+ community ‘focused on the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs’. The community aims to provide a fantastic networking experience for small businesses and people regularly post opportunities, leads, referrals, or requests to make a connection with other small businesses.
When thinking about professional networking, Pinterest may not be an obvious platform to use. However, there are a growing number of tools on Pinterest designed to help businesses grow their audience, build their reputation, and share content. If you’re an individual jobseeker, Pinterest may not be the right platform for you but if you run a business and are looking to connect with people in your industry, potential employees, or customers, you could use Pinterest to create industry-relevant boards, news boards, portfolio boards, and content that has a professional focus.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, one of the criticisms levelled against LinkedIn is that many of the profiles are out of date or inactive. Plaxo is the world’s largest online address book, storing over 3.7 billion contacts in 50 million address books. The platform works by consolidating the contact information you hold about your network into one synced address book that automatically cleans and updates contact information so that you can keep in touch with your contacts.
Quora is not directly a professional networking website. The aim of Quora is to open questions on any topic to a vast network of people, from experts and authorities to regular people with relevant knowledge. An upside of this is that many people find they are able to make some excellent professional contacts by asking industry- and career-related questions on Quora and starting a conversation with people.
Although it can take a while to wrap your head around Twitter, many experts rate it as their favourite platform for professional networking. Stats would suggest that 12% of people use Twitter to aid their job search, while 90% of companies are engaging with social media activity, especially on Twitter. Although job interviews aren’t going to be conducted in Tweets or 140 characters or less, Twitter is a valuable tool for keeping on top of industry news, networking (look out for Twitter hours dedicated to networking or your industry), and creating a credible online presence. The latter is particularly important as, in July 2014, a survey from CareerBuilder found that 51% of employers check applicants’ social media pages before inviting them for interview.
Visual CV is a free tool that lets you create an online portfolio or personal landing page, which you can publish online or as a PDF. The analytics feature lets you track your CV views, opens and downloads, providing insights into your CV’s performance.
Industry specific alternatives to LinkedIn
For people in specialised industries, it makes sense to build a presence on industry-specific professional networking sites as these sites are focused on connecting people within the same niche or field and can yield more suitable job vacancies and opportunities. Although it’s impossible to cover every industry-specific alternative to LinkedIn here, we’ve put together a list of some of the big hitters:
GitHub is the world’s largest open source community. If you are a software development professional, you can use GitHub to share your projects with the world, get feedback, contribute to projects, and connect with potential collaborators.
If you’re a mechanical engineer, you can become part of the GrabCAD community, create your CAD portfolio and show off your expertise. This is an excellent platform for collaboration and building your reputation within your field.
If you’re a data scientist looking for the next step in your career or you represent an organisation seeking data scientists, then Kaggle is the place to look. Kaggle is the world’s largest community of data scientists, statisticians, and machine learning engineers.
As well as tracking what journalists are saying about top news stories on social media, Muck Rack is a place for journalists to build an online profile and portfolio to raise their reputation, and track the impact and reach of their articles.
If you are an oil or gas professional, then Oilpro could be the ideal website for you to connect with colleagues, advance your skills, build credibility around your expertise, and explore new career opportunities. Approximately 11,500 industry-specific jobs are featured on the site at any one time and there is a wealth of resources and content on the site aimed at helping you develop your career.
The Professional Copywriters’ Network is a fantastic tool for copywriters, ghost writers, content writers, and copyeditors to promote themselves and find new clients, or for clients to find the ideal writer for their project.
ResearchGate’s mission is to connect researchers and make it easy to share and access scientific output, knowledge, and expertise. You can publish your research, connect and collaborate, and find jobs within the research community.
Sortfolio is a website specific to web designers and clients who might be looking to hire web designers. Sortfolio promotes its content to thousands of businesses each month, driving traffic through to web designers’ websites and portfolios.
Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers. It also features a busy ‘Stack Overflow Careers’ section, which aims to help programmers showcase, not only their professional experience, but also their reputation on Stack Overflow and other programming achievements. The company profiles on Stack Overflow aim to give you a better understanding of the ethos of potential employers, while many companies turn to Stack Overflow when they need skilled programmers.
Stage 32 is the world’s largest social network and educational hub for people in film, television and theatre. This is a platform for jobs, collaboration, connections, networking, education, and meetups throughout the world.
Zerply is an online network for the world’s leading production talent in films, games, and TV. If you’re a concept artist, animator, art director, VFX supervisor, or any role connected to bringing films, television and games to life, then this is a fantastic platform to advertise your skills and experience, and find out about projects worldwide.
Do you have a favourite platform for professional networking? Do you use an industry-specific site or an alternative to LinkedIn? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.