How Niche Social Networking Sites Empower New Industries
Social Media for Serious Professions
It's been more than ten years since the arrival of digital social media networks and their infectious use by the world at large. Connecting the masses via the online social media wave is ongoing with a giant few (think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest) commanding the lion's share of media attention. While the masses feed on social networks like candy to a baby, a number of industries continue to be hesitant or downright slow in their adoption of online social networking platforms.
Reasons for this include misconceptions about the efficacies of social media marketing, a lack of guidance, certain ethical restrictions, and overall uncertainty in how to implement a policy when using such tools. In order for social media to work its magic for "serious professionals," companies and organizations need to carefully choose the right social sites, explains Technorati writer, Courtney Gordner, in her article, "Is social media serious enough for serious professions?"
Industries still wrestling with their efforts to make effective use of the digital marketing space include the legal, oil and gas, and construction industries. But a whole new crop of niche social networking apps - including UBuildNet.com, Foxwordy, and Oilpro - have surfaced to help these industries overcome their reticence in participating.
Lawyers in search for greater social media networking privacy
In its annual survey, the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Resource Center found the following:
- 56 percent of law firms surveyed now have a LinkedIn presence
- Individual lawyers are converging on LinkedIn as well, with 98 percent reporting LinkedIn use
- Facebook ranks second, with 35 percent of law firms surveyed reporting that their firms have a Facebook presence
- Twitter is far behind, however, with 19 percent of survey respondents reporting use in 2013
While these stats appear healthy as far as legal interaction with social media, lawyers are still at risk for any variety of adverse consequences if they behave improperly or violate any rules of conduct. Lawyers must always use caution when using social media, especially if it leads to any conflict of interest (inappropriate social media postings that conflict with the law, for example) and/or inadvertently creates an attorney-client relationship.
The International Bar Association examined these types of issues in a 2012 survey. In studying the role that online networking plays within the legal profession, the report showed 90 percent of respondents found social networking does indeed present challenges like client confidentiality and ethics breaches.
In response to these concerns, a recent private social network sprung into being to assist lawyers in overcoming these problems. Foxwordy bills itself as a "new cloud-based social collaboration platform." It is by invitation-only and when accepted, lawyers can instantly connect with their colleagues to discuss workflow needs in real-time while enhancing their professional reputations.
As Foxwordy founder and CEO, Monica Zent, wrote in a blog post, "For lawyers to use social media effectively and productively for the purpose of engaging with their peers, the network needs to be private and have controls over what is shared and with whom." And what lawyer is going to refute her assertion? If you're a lawyer, sign up for a free 30-day trial and let me know in the comments how well it works for you.
Oil and Gas using social media to improve peer collaboration
BP, Texaco, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, these are just a few of the giants in the oil and gas industries, a number of whom haven't always fared well in the public eye. Issues like hydraulic fracking and the building of the Keystone pipeline are political hot cakes and these companies are doing what they can, including their use of social networks to help put a dampener on the cries from environmentalists. But if it's one thing that people care just as passionately about, it's what their peers have to say on relevant topics concerning their own profession.
While networking remains a fundamental reason for using social apps, it's the focus on peer-to-peer collaboration and the need for recruiting that inspired Houston-based software developer, David Kent to create the niche online community for oil and gas professionals, Oilpro.com. Once you've created your profile, the platform allows you to showcase your posts and any questions you've answered. You can highlight special oil and gas projects you've worked on and receive endorsements from your peers. It features a resource to search for new job opportunities and strongly encourages you to promote your responsibilities on various projects.
Register and learn more about the various people at work in this vibrant industry.
Construction builds on social networking
When you think of industries using social media networking tools, the first one that comes to mind is generally not construction. A vision of people wearing hardhats, red and orange-striped vests, and dusty-looking boots working outside under the hot sun or in freezing cold temperatures is more likely is what first comes to mind. Keep in mind, however, that a large number of industry professionals are tech savvy and actively engage on social media platforms.
A whopping 97 percent of construction professionals are using social media to market their businesses, according to the Construction Marketing Association. The most popular platforms used by construction professionals include LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
But there is a new social networking platform designed specifically for the construction industry, and it's called UBuildNet.com. A construction industry veteran, John C. Clark, designed the platform with the express purpose of connecting construction industry professionals with one another in order to help grow their business. I created a sample profile for myself just to test out how easy it is to network with other construction professionals. It's easy to register as the homepage asks only your name, a password, basic business information, and an email address. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes.
Once you're logged in, you see the site has seven tabs at the top, each providing you with the opportunity to both add additional information about your services and find others you can connect to. There's a Networking Corner and a Toolbox containing a number of itemized templates covering pretty much everything you would want to cover when taking on a construction project, from construction budget to scope of work to loan amortization schedule.
I really liked the Project Gallery tab as it helps you find and discover new ideas in whatever home or construction project you're undertaking. You network with other industry pros by accepting uConnection requests, which enable you to quickly identify those working in your specific area.
Clark told me that his long-range vision for UBuildNet.com is for the site to act as an easy to use dashboard that any construction business can use for its day-to-day administrative and marketing needs. The platform does feature advertising on the right hand-column.
The tool is still very new but for those in the construction industry, I'd love to hear your networking experience with the platform in the comments below!
Co-authored by Byron Gordon
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