By CSU Global - February 24th, 2020
Joining professional communities is vital to career growth. While in-person communities and networking events are beneficial (and worthwhile), make sure you’re not overlooking the many online platforms available to you for professional engagement.
These platforms come in all shapes and sizes — from the big, recognizable ones (like LinkedIn) to small-business-focused sites (like Alignable). We’ll explore several options, reasons to curate your professional online presence, and how to get started.
Best Platforms for Engaging in Your Professional Community
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the biggest professional network in the world, boasting 165 million users in the United States alone. As far as professional social networking sites go, LinkedIn is a non-negotiable for engaging with your professional community. LinkedIn is the most-used site for recruiting, too, so if you’re hoping networking professionally will help you in your job search, you’re in luck.
Alignable: This site is built specifically for small-business owners to foster a sense of community and connect with one another. While LinkedIn is great for large-scale conversations, Alignable features smaller communities, knowledge-sharing, referrals, and networking.
Facebook Groups: Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook, and globally, more than 10 million Facebook groups exist. Facebook Groups are one of the best and easiest ways to connect with fellow professionals in niche or focused industries, like marketing and technology. Use Facebook Groups to learn best practices, ask questions, and build connections. Start by searching on Facebook for something like “marketing groups” or “IT professional groups.” Take a look at the results and descriptions, and see if anything sounds like a good fit. Some groups require verification by group admins to join, and some are open to any new member. Group rules should be clearly spelled out — just take a peek!
Reddit: Have a pressing question about best practices, digital functionality, or trouble-shooting? Reddit is the perfect site for quick-hit engagement. While not the most formal online platform, Reddit is still useful for making digital connections and feeling engaged in your industry. It’s a great center for conversations, too, and you may pick up some great takeaways and knowledge.
Tips and Tricks for Engaging with Online Platforms
With the scope of LinkedIn especially, it may feel intimidating to start networking professionally. Start small — after optimizing your profile with a head shot, keywords, and job experience, connect with existing coworkers. From there, widen your circle. If there are individuals whom you admire, reach out and ask for a connection with a personal note.
Your personal brand should shine on platforms like LinkedIn. Create and post industry-related articles, share your thoughts on the latest industry news, and show your personality by engaging with others’ posts. Make sure your summary accurately (and memorably) reflects your unique value proposition as an employee, creator, thought leader, or business owner.
Alignable works best for small-business owners looking to grow their businesses, understand their customers better, and network with fellow small-business owners. Business owners are more likely to experience depression and other mental health issues than the general population, partly caused by feelings of stress and isolation that seem endemic to the small-business world. Alignable helps connect business owners with one another, reducing feelings of isolation and encouraging sharing and supporting. So, to make the most of Alignable, engage frequently, answer questions where possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarity or help.
Facebook Groups and Reddit are there for you to spark conversations, learn from others, and feel like part of an industry. Once you find the right threads (Reddit) or groups (Facebook), try asking a question about best practices, responding to someone else’s question, and engaging with other users. Just make sure to take a look at the rules of engagement to avoid violating any group rules (usually, self-promotion or off-topic conversations are frowned upon, but each group or thread has its own rules).
And remember: Like any relationship, you get out what you put in! Consider writing up a few original articles to share out on your profiles, like and share (where relevant) on LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, and Alignable, and ask thought-provoking questions on Reddit feeds. The more you can position yourself as a vital, interesting member of the professional community, the better.
The CSU Global staff continually researches topics that are of interest to CSU Global students. Our goal is to support student success and learning outcomes.