LinkedIn is a huge professional networking site.
In fact, it is the world’s largest professional network, with more than 610 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.
I tend to use LinkedIn as a virtual Rolodex and I try to connect with all of the individuals that I work with, so that I always have an updated means of contacting them.
However, like any social network, LinkedIn has weaknesses.
For one, because of the size and the number of users, my feed doesn’t always feel personal and the content isn’t always hyper-relevant.
Worse yet, I get DMs by the dozen from people trying to sell me things. The ratio of quality connections to spammers seems to be sliding in the wrong direction lately.
Although I can’t see myself leaving LinkedIn – and I’m not suggesting you should, either – there are a number of other sites and platforms that can add supplemental value.
Here are 13 professional networking alternatives to LinkedIn.
Meetup is a cool platform that allows you to seek out (or create!) local meetups. When you register, you mark your interests.
Meetup will then notify you of any local meetups that you might be interested in, as they are created. The meetups span a wide variety of topics from professional topics to hobbies and everything between.
If you don’t find one that you’re interested in, or one that works with your schedule, you can set one up and Meetup will notify anyone that has identified your topic as something that is of interest to them.
It’s a great way to bring like-minded people together, locally.
Xing is a professional network that is similar to LinkedIn. After signing up, you can join groups with like-minded professionals to network and share ideas.
You can stay on top of the latest news in your industry and identify relevant seminars, conferences, and tradeshows.
You can post jobs, search jobs, and research companies. Xing is more prominent in Europe than in the U.S., but is used by people in over 200 countries.
It is free to use but you can unlock additional features with a premium membership, similar to LinkedIn.
Bark is designed to connect local professionals with people who are seeking their services.
Looking for a professional’s assistance? You can cut down on search time by using Bark.
Bark will reach out to professionals in your area and circle back with estimates. Even more valuable, you can set up your own profile and be paired with prospects that are seeking out the services that you offer.
Opportunity is a networking site that prides itself on “professional matchmaking.” It strives to connect people based upon their needs.
For instance, users can be notified each time someone in their target market indicates that they need what the user offers.
Likewise, users can be notified of relevant employment opportunities. In addition, professionals can discover other professionals based upon the preferences they select (e.g., age, gender, interests, personality).
Jobcase is pretty unique in that it has been powering over 100 popular job sites since 2009.
Because of that, Jobcase has access to a wealth of data about open roles and the companies that are currently hiring for roles that you might be interested in.
So how does it work?
With Jobcase, you can set up a profile and get access to a huge database of jobs. In addition, you can join groups, or peruse the community to participate in discussions.
Jobcase boasts over 80 million users, so there are plenty of discussions to join in on!
Lunchmeet is a mobile app. This is a valuable tool to identify local professionals with similar interests (similar to Meetup.com).
What makes Lunchmeet unique is that you use it to identify one other local professional to meet for coffee or lunch, as opposed to pulling in a crowd.
With Lunchmeet, you can set up your availability for an impromptu meeting and find other local professionals with availability during those time slots.
7. Community Forums
One of the easiest, and yet most overlooked, networking opportunities are in community forums.
Interested in Google Ads? Check out the Google Ads forum.
Bing Ads? Check out the Bing Ads forum.
Not so much interested in ads? The Google Webmaster Central Forum might be more your speed.
The forums are a great way to ask questions and to share your experience with others that are seeking input. The forums stay active and are frequented by many knowledgeable people.
8. Twitter Threads
Believe it or not, some of the best industry networking that I’ve been privileged to stumble upon has come from some really great Twitter communities!
The especially great thing about these is that: they are public, they are free, they are active, and they can be really supportive.
New members are welcomed and people are encouraged to share their questions and struggles. Plus, it’s just fun to talk shop with others who get it.
I’ve made a lot of lasting connections on Twitter, which have led to a variety of career opportunities from speaking at industry events to client referrals and more.
Digital marketers can find relevant content on #PPCchat, #FBadsChat #SEOchat, #SEOtalk, #SEMrushChat, #HootChat, #SproutChat, #socialROI, and #contentwritingchat – just to name a few.
Although Reddit has a strong reputation for being the source of many-a-meme, it’s also so much more than that.
Reddit hosts a huge span of micro-communities, including r/PPC for paid search and r/SEO for, you guessed it, SEO.
You can reply to existing posts or create your own; just sign-up for a free Reddit account if you want to partake in the action.
Not interested in SEO or PPC? No problem.
Reddit has a huge list of topics. There’s something for everyone.
Slack receives some mixed reviews and it’s no surprise why: there are several Slack communities that can add a lot of value.
On the other hand, it can also be really distracting. Nearly every other networking community in this list is browser-based (with the exception of Lunchmeet).
Slack is a messenger-based mobile app and desktop application, where each community has a mix of public threads and the option to DM anyone else in the community.
I’m a fan, because I’ve joined some great communities, met great people, and have even created working relationships all through Slack.
However, if you find yourself easily distracted by IMs and mobile/desktop notifications, Slack might not be the best option.
Note: it is possible to adjust your notifications in the settings to help mitigate the distraction.
If interested in finding a Slack community, a quick Google search for “’Insert Topic Here’ + Slack Community” usually turns up several options.
It’s also easy and free to create your own Slack community and invite your friends.
11. Facebook Groups
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, there are several Facebook groups dedicated toward sharing professional knowledge and experiences.
Although Facebook is often considered to be more of a personal social platform than LinkedIn, it can also be a great source for professional networking.
If interested in seeking out a community, just use Facebook’s search tool to find groups about the topic of interest.
There are several communities that cater to various aspects of digital marketing from tactical knowledge all the way to running a digital agency.
Sumry is a site that was built to make first impressions easier. It is a web app that builds online resumes and portfolios.
Sumry allows you to aggregate your certifications, skills, and work experience and it also allows you to include testimonials and your full timeline of work experience – similar to LinkedIn.
With the premium version, it also gives users a chance to introduce themselves before submitting an application.
Once you are ready to submit, Sumry makes it easy to apply with one-click with a link to your profile and a PDF of your resume.
Gust is a community focused solely on startups, in fact, it claims to be the world’s largest startup network.
Gust is a global SaaS funding platform, for the sourcing and management of early-stage investments for startups. It enables entrepreneurs to collaborate with investors and angel investor networks.
LinkedIn is the largest professional networking in the world, but there are plenty of other networking options to help you make meaningful connections.
In fact, some of these alternatives may be more helpful than LinkedIn because they focus on creating more professional connections based on your location or niche.
All screenshots taken by author, March 2019