Some of the invitations one gets on LinkedIn are baffling. Why would a chemical engineer in Australia or a biotech research student from Singapore, want to connect with me, a journalist? People who have absolutely nothing in common by way of interests or jobs are connecting over the professional social network.
But then, LinkedIn is really a vast ocean where different streams mingle. Its expanse has widened so much that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. Though it is nice to meet people from different fields, sometimes, all one looks for is shop talk.
Enter vertical social networks organised around professions.
While looking for the contact details of a VC, I stumbled upon AngelList, a social network for start-ups. And then found another dozen or so of similar kind. Out of sheer curiosity (and the perennial hope that I might one day take a plunge into the exciting start-up world), I joined a few and it’s been fascinating. If you are looking for funds or talent or an exciting idea, these networks are great places to be on.
For HR professionals, there is Metzano, which creates an ecosystem of HR professionals and operates a large number of groups dealing with specific aspects of HR such as organisational development, talent acquisition and others. Metzano also operates Linked:HR, the biggest single profession group on LinkedIn with 975,000 members.
As Pamela Harding, Community Chair of Linked:HR and CEO of Metzano explains, LinkedIn and Facebook are horizontal vertical networks — but its broad scale, combined with platform limitations (text based and hardly any multimedia) makes it challenging to create a community. “We are now moving towards vertical networks that are designed to be an ecosystem for a particular industry, function, or profession,” she says.
Niche social networking
Metzano’s vertical network for HR draws inspiration from pioneers like Edmondo (an education network for students and parents), GitHub (a community for software professionals) and Doximity (a social network for physicians in the US). Closer home, there is Curofy, on which 60,000 doctors have clambered aboard to discuss tough cases with each other, among other things.
Look around and literally every professional community is today creating a social network to serve their needs.
Anything for journalists? You bet. There is Muckrack in the US, a platform that connects journalists and PR professionals. It allows journalists to build their portfolio, create their personal brand and accelerate their careers while PR professionals can find the beat reporters they are looking for and network with them.
While horizontal networks are the first port of call for most social media users, relevance will make them shift towards vertical networks. The bet is that over the next couple of years, we will see more of such networks.