Social Networking

Certainly, social media has fundamentally impacted how we communicate. With the emergence of platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, along with the evolution of smart phones, social networking is easier than ever. With just a few clicks, status updates, pictures, and videos can be shared with your entire network.
In light of social networking’s impact on how we communicate with friends, family, and colleagues, it is important to remember that Facebook was not originally created to be a company. As Mark Zuckerberg outlined in his IPO letter, Facebook was built to accomplish a social mission — “to make the world more open and connected.” There’s no question that Facebook has moved closer to accomplishing this mission. In fact, 72% of adult internet users use Facebook for social networking (Pew Research Center, 2015). Additionally, 74% of people say they use Facebook for professional purposes. (HubSpot, 2017)
Marketers are flocking to social media with the objective of generating leads, or increasing brand exposure. Of course, the ultimate goal for marketers is to grow sales. With over 50 million businesses using Facebook business pages, there’s no question that the social networking space is becoming more and more crowded. This is leaving some individuals looking for alternatives to build their professional network and to share ideas with others in their industry.
One avenue individuals are utilizing is groups. Most social networking sites including Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to join groups that can be open to everyone, closed to non-members, or invitation only. Topics can range from hobbies and neighborhood discussions to software tips and industry discussions. This channel can be a more effective way for users to network with other individuals about a certain subject. However, with more than 2 million groups on LinkedIn alone finding the right group for the topic, you’re most interested in might prove to be a challenge.
Another medium that users are beginning to utilize are sites that are focused on a specific topic or industry. Take the HVAC industry. A search for “HVAC” under the groups section on LinkedIn yielded over 700 results. Names of these groups include HVAC Professionals, HVAC Industry Professionals, and HVAC Experts. LinkedIn gives users the ability to join up to 100 groups on its platform. As a result, users have the ability to post questions and participate in discussions with multiple audiences outside of those that they are connected to directly. However, posting the same question to multiple groups to get insight from others in the industry can get tedious, just as keeping up with the responses and discussions from each group could get a little difficult to manage. Rather than juggle multiple groups, a professional in the HVAC industry may join a social networking site like Black Belt Contracting (BBC). This site allows users to create a network of friends, post comments, offer advice, and share ideas. It is unlikely that this site will replace Facebook or LinkedIn, but that also doesn’t seem to be the purpose. Just like Facebook started with the mission of making the world more open and connected, niche sites like BBC are meant to invite individuals with common interests to share ideas.
Social networking has evolved immensely over the last decade. As new sites are launched and others merge, there’s no question that social media will continue to change. It is also apparent that, as social media becomes a larger part of our personal and professional lives, it is here to stay.