THESE NETWORKS MAY NOT BOAST THE SAME NUMBERS AS THE BIG BOYS, BUT YOUR PROFILE IS MORE LIKELY TO STAND OUT.
The original purpose of many if not all of our now ubiquitous social platforms was to find and connect with those similar to you. Meet people with your same hobbies, experiences, friends, or career interests. That’s certainly still possible, but as Facebook, Twitter, and the others have grown to insurmountable size, it’s become harder and harder to stand out or grab the attention of any potential connection for any reason. Fortunately, there are plenty of other social networks, often with more niche focuses, that can not only help you stand out, but give you a break from the old guard of social networks that you’re understandably tired of.
If you use social media to get work and build a network, LinkedIn is a great option, but not the only one. Some of the alternatives aren’t all that different in practice (although each has their own defining theme), but they may be different in audience. Never pass up an opportunity for more clients to notice you.
If you’ve heard of Slideshare you might not even consider it a social network, but rather a place to post and read interesting presentations. Technically, it’s part of the LinkedIn family now but Slideshare already had an active community of its own.
While many still consider SlideShare a directory for presentations, there is a lot of discussion going on in the comments of each one. Slideshare currently has 70 million users with more traffic from business owners than any other major social media platform. With such a work-oriented community, you’re bound to find a new client browsing the slides. Though career and business-focused presentations are the most popular category, much of the content isn’t solely focused on work related topics. You’re just as likely to find a presentation on this year’s Oscar winners as you are proper digital marketing practices. This means that pretty much any subject you want to make a presentation on is bound to get views.
Goodwall is designed specifically for students and recent college graduates to get work. They’ve seen the tidal wave of Gen Z students quickly approaching their professional lives and they understand that networking is always hardest at the beginning when your network is tiny. Goodwall wants to help these new professional get a head start.
They have pretty much all the same capabilities as LinkedIn although Goodwall doesn’t only post job listings. They also post scholarships, grants, and competitions you can apply to. Goodwall’s interface is a bit more visually appealing than LinkedIn’s too; you have more control over your portfolio’s aesthetic.
Contra is a relatively new social network designed for freelancers, and they really emphasize the network. Contra has a job search component similar to LinkedIn but Contra favors getting those jobs via connections. Contra's interface encourages users to meet with other freelancers on the platform to find work. After you sign up and make a profile you have to submit it for approval. Contra only wants freelancers who’ve reached a certain level of career success. By no means do you have to be in the game for a decade to join Contra, but if you just started freelancing a few months ago, you may want to wait a bit. All the jobs you get through the Contra must be paid through Contra as well. They also offer their users fairly advanced analytics on the performance of their profile. Contra is an interesting mix of career services, with community at the forefront.
Designers, photographers, and other visual artists are in luck when it comes to networking options. Social media has such potential for visual communication that it’s no surprise. Whether you want to find a new web design project, sell your art and designs, keep up with current trends in the market, or just connect with other graphic professionals, these networks are a must.
Many businesses are turning toward data visualization to convey information to customers. Not a surprise as infographics, videos, and other visual presentations are more often than not among the top content performers. When looking to create this content, businesses of all stripes turn to Visual.ly, a visual focused marketing agency. Visual.ly probably wouldn’t call itself a “social network” but they create work for their clients through utilizing a network of visual artists and designers. You can apply to be part of their network and land gigs, but something you don’t need to apply to is the “Visual.ly Community.” You can make a free account and submit an image that will be posted on their community page. That image can then be leased or outsourced to any client using Visual.ly. Sharing your work with the average person is a great way to market yourself, but allowing businesses to use your creations to share with their own customer base may be even better.
Dribble is a social platform for designers to showcase their artwork. It acts as both an ever changing online portfolio and a networking platform for graphic designers ,web designers, illustrators, photographers, and other visual creatives. You can visit the site whenever you want to find, follow, or be hired, but if you want to upload your work or comment on other work you need to apply to their platform. To apply, you need an invitation from someone who's already a member of Dribbble. This system keeps the quality of the work high and keeps the discourse professional. Dribbble also offers a number of paid features, including the ability to let stores outsource your designs on their products. It's also a great way to keep tabs on what's trendy and what's becoming overused in design circles. The platform isn't without its quirks, but is a go-to place for designers looking to stay up-to-date, sell their work, and get hired.
Behance is probably the premier vertical social network for visual creatives from graphic artists to web designers. Owned by Adobe, Behance counts more than 10 million people among its members from all over the world. If you’re starting out as a freelancer working in the visual arts, having a Behance portfolio is a must. Behance has a job search engine with a pretty high number of jobs available (although nothing compared to LinkedIn or Indeed), but really the best way to get work through Behance is to keep your portfolio up to date. Keep uploading new work, look for the kind of content clients want, and the clients will come to you.
INTERESTS & HOBBIES
Some of the best connections, whether it’s a peer or a client, come from scenarios far outside the realm of work. We all have interests we’re passionate about and want to connect over. Some of the most common being crafts, movies, and alcohol. What a coincide! These three networks are about those same things.
Untappd is a geo-social networking service for beer lovers. Apparently, beer is all you need for quality socializing (like we didn't know that before). The app allows its users to check in beers as they drink them, and share the location of each checked beer with friends. Users also rate the beer, share pictures of their beers, review tap lists from nearby venues, and see what beers their friends are drinking. In 2016, they reported 2.6 million users. People on the app can unsurprisingly be snobby, but you don’t have to engage in any beer discourse if you don’t want to. Although if you do come across a beer gourmand, you can match them with your new beer knowledge. Perhaps the best benefit Untappd provides is the inside scoop on the best bars and breweries, as well suggestions for great beers you haven’t tried.
Letterboxd is a free community site for movie fans. The site lets you track movies you’ve watched, leave your ratings and opinions, create movie lists, find people with similar tastes, and more. Launched in 2011 Letterboxd is all about deep dives into cinema history. It's quickly grown into one of the most useful critical resources on the web, with stuff for just about every taste. The cool thing about it is that you can go as shallow or as deep as you like. Some people just use it to tick off flicks they've seen, while others create their own little review empire. Once we can all safely go to the movies again, get the most of what you’ve been missing with Letterboxd.
This one is super niche, but it’s often the case that the more concentrated the communicate, the more passionate and active it is. This is the case with Ravelry, a free community site for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners and dyers; pretty much anyone who works with yarn and patterns. The site aims to help users "organize, share, and discover" within the yarn artisan community. As light and fun as this sight sounds, they take their craft very seriously. Potential users must apply for an invite (you usually receive one within a few days), and with over 9 million users, that clearly doesn’t deter people.
Ravelry gives users a place to organize their ongoing projects, list what pattern and yarn they’re using (so you can buy it too), post photos of finished works or works in progress, and comment or advise fellow users on their projects. Forum topics range from "How do I use double-pointed needles?" to "Have you seen any patterns based off the new Star Trek?"
If you’re thinking about deleting your social accounts all together because “what the point really?”, maybe just take a break from the apps you’re using and find some new communities. At worst, you have a better idea of what online communities are for you, and at best, you make new friends and land new business.