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Professional Social Networks v/s Online Communities


Earlier when one used to apply for a job, he would try finding a friend in that company and try to get his resume to the HR person to get what he believed to be an edge over other applicants. With the advent of professional networks such as LinkedIn this changed; it became easier for the applicant to find professionals that might get him connected to someone important in the company he was applying to. It also opened up opportunities for professionals to connect with and ‘network’ with professionals who could provide them with industry/company insights and then decide if the industry/company was right for them.

Even as of today, people search for their college alumni on professional networks, try to connect to 2nd degree connections. They even reach out to someone whom they haven’t met in the real life, but see as someone worth connecting with.


However, one might wonder if finding a new and better job alone can constitute to a better career or it’s just a part of it; there are a lot of aspects that help shape a person’s career:

Training: for a successful career there is a need for constant up-gradation of skills, both technical and soft. Professionals in certain technical industries are looking for a competency roadmap, which along with their work would help them climb the career ladder.

Mentorship: every person looks up to his superiors and industry leaders to get advice and tips not only to understand the industry landscape but more importantly to shape a successful career.

Networking: human beings are social animals for no other reason than that they need to interact with other people. These interactions help us look beyond our own limited scope of thinking and open up new chains of thought.

Recognition: everyone expects to get recognition for their work, in the traditional world this used to happen via the letter of recommendation or via reference checks. Now professionals can get recommendations of their work online while they are still working for that employer. This has moved from an exit process to a practice wherein professionals get recognized for their work instantly.

Accreditations: in an increasingly competitive world, professionals strive to get certified and get accreditations for their skill set to maintain an edge over their peers who don’t have these certifications.

Thought Leadership: professionals always look up to thought leaders to learn from their ideas and approach. Blogging and sharing of knowledge has made it very easy for professionals to both create and consume relevant content. Content which is not just confined to a professional's own network can establish the content creator as a thought leader amongst his peers. 

Collaboration: professionals are now collaborating with their network connections and beyond to answer some of their queries. They are also coming up with the next breakthroughs in technology and leadership through this collective wisdom. Professionals also have the opportunity to work on small projects where different team members are based in different geographies.


Industry Events & Conferences : events and conferences also act as great source of knowledge on some of the upcoming trends and ideas in an industry and at the same time provide professionals with great networking opportunities.

If we try to measure most of the professionals networks on this yardstick they fall short on providing the full rounded experience that professionals are looking for. This creates a need for professional communities that can act as a pitstop for professionals to help them in shaping their career and achieve greater success. To address these issues, professional communities need to be industry specific rather than a generic all-encompassing professional network, which can’t address all the needs of professionals.

InfoPier, is a great example of such a community. Initiated by the Singapore Computer Society, it successfully creates a niche professional community of ICT professionals in Singapore. It provides the community members all that they need for their professional development. There are thought-provoking blogs, latest industry news, training programs, discounts at conferences and events, latest job offerings, in fact everything that a professional could ask for.

As we go along we would see many such industry-specific Professional Communities taking shape, which may not be as big as Professional Social Networks but would add a lot more value to the professionals who join them.

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Purpose built communities maybe smaller in size , but, yes they do deliver more value than social/professional networks by having a concentrated collection of relevant members associated with their networks.
Posted on 4/12/12 9:04 PM.
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