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Professional Networking: LinkedIn Alternatives - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedIn Alternatives

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedIn Alternatives

In the online professional networking sphere, LinkedIn is the uncontested juggernaut, the must-do for professionals looking to expand their connectivity. Yet despite its vast reach and media prominence, it’s not for everyone, as we’ve explored in past articles on this subject. For some, its all-inclusiveness creates too large a pond for a fish with a focused mindset. For others, its more of a social autograph book than a meaningful way to make new connections. Whatever your feelings about the behemoth of the networking world, there are other options that might deliver a more satisfying experience, not necessarily as a replacement for LinkedIn, but more as a supplement. Here’s a quick look at some of these alternatives.

Opprtunity.com seems to be the most ambitious of the rest of the pack, with what appears to be an eHarmony-like matchmaking algorithm serving to connect companies with potential employees based on skills desired by one and offered by the other. Immediately upon clicking the “sign me up” link, you are confronted with an identity selection. Are you looking for sales leads, employment, or candidates? There is no option for “none of the above; I’m just here to meet people,” so from the position we repeatedly espouse of establishing networks based on meaningful relationships, Opprtunity doesn’t have much use for us. However, as revealed in our recent informal poll about what’s wrong with LinkedIn, many people sign up specifically to look for work, a let’s-get-down-to-business approach this website seems to serve.

BranchOut.com is a Facebook app, a service that makes use of Facebook’s mighty numbers to connect you with jobs, job candidates, and possible sales, much like Opprtunity. Once logging in with Facebook credentials, you are shown a search-engine screen where you can search for people or for positions. Ostensibly, you are added to the database of people who are either recruiting or wishing to be recruited. Sheer force of size might give BranchOut a meaningful presence and possible advantage over other services when it comes to looking for work or for workers, but for the professional looking only to establish meaningful relationships for the present, its purpose also appears to be slightly skew.

Dunwello.com uses a similar “jobs, sales, people” approach with online profiles, but the emphasis seems to be on recommending others and receiving recommendations by others. The highlighting of personal endorsements takes one of LinkedIn’s most trivialized elements and taps into it for the potential power it stores. It features appealing visual CVs and an attitude that falls right in line with our position that good networking is about solid relationships first. It’s not flashy, but its substance appears to be real.

Quibb.com is a members-only, by-application network that highlights another prominent LinkedIn feature: the sharing of industry news and analysis. For those who wish LinkedIn users would treat its share-stream as its own thing, as opposed to another place to share photos of the day’s breakfast, the potential for meaningful, valuable, useful content is enormous. There’s definitely something to be said for an approach that encourages following or connecting with people who add strength to the signal, not unlike the way many Flickr users become friends because they share mutual interest in photographic subjects, or simply because they admire each other’s work. With only a 43% application acceptance rate, with each application being reviewed by a human, Quibb might boast a highly curated, elite user base that many would find appealing.

There are many industry-specific professional network services catering to such realms as entertainment, human resources, software development, education, and general business. A detailed examination of them all it outside the scope of this article, but they might be worth a quick Google search. Just as Quibb seeks to create a potential-rich pool of selected participants, industry-specific networks can keep your reach focused on those actively involved in your business. Geography-specific networks exist as well, and as do geography-specific, industry-specific networks, some of which seem to be flourishing.

NetParty.com and Yelp.com skip the job-search functionality and get right to the networking. Yelp events whose photos often flood our media streams are a great way for younger professionals to meet and socialize, and based on the Instagrammed evidence, “young” is a term whose definition is up to the participant. While Yelp events are not specifically aimed at professional networking, the demographic seems to lean heavily in that direction, especially when viewed through the lens of the types of venues hosting the events. NetParty has latched onto this concept with an overtly professional slant, though it is still establishing its presence beyond its current 25 American cities, three Canadian cities, and seven cities outside North America. For those who like to get out there and shake hands, services like these make a lot more sense than the collection of CVs and profiles the other services depend upon.

Perhaps the most interesting of the professional network sites is something called Somewhere.com, where one screen in a visual tour actually says, “CVs? We don’t need no CVs!” Somewhere is like those Quora-type websites where users are asked questions, or “provocations,” related to work, motivation, ethic, and work history. Some of the initial questions users are presented with are “What was your first job?” and “What was one of your past roles?” Questions can be answered in 250-character bites or they can be postponed or skipped entirely. Before submitting, users are encouraged to attach a photo to each response, when it then becomes a “spark,” a Pinterest-type image-and-text tile on a large wall of other sparks. Users can “like” the sparks of others, following users and companies the way users are followed on other websites. How exactly Somewhere is going to become something useful or valuable seems unknown even to the site’s operators, but of all the websites listed here, it is the one that engages best. As its user base grows, and as the sparks accumulate, it could be a much more meaningful, colorful, and vibrant glimpse at companies and employees than the virtual Rolodex of CVs the other sites offer. Just as peeking at someone’s Pinterest boards can give you a good idea of what a person values, a collection of sparks might be a much better look at someone who could add value to your company.

Even if you’re all in with LinkedIn (and we remain huge fans), it surely doesn’t hurt to expand your reach into these emerging nooks and crannies of the professional networking online space. Companies looking for diamonds in the rough might do well to stake out early territory in these spaces, while professionals looking to connect with like-minded professionals might find it easier in a smaller or more specific tank. Whatever your reasons for networking, take a look at what else is out there; there’s more to online networking than you-know-what.


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