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The Digital Student: Professional networking

Social Media

A growing number of social network websites are emerging with a specific focus on business and/or profession networking. These sites are known as professional networks and focus solely on on helping users maintain professional contacts, develop their career and network with others in the same business/profession. Not only can you apply for jobs through many of the professional networking websites, but the vast majority of major recruiters use them to proactively approach potential applicants.

Know the basics of putting your professional self-online

“Social media is not just for socializing. When handled correctly, you can use it to enhance your personal brand, establish your expertise, or demonstrate your digital fluency. Commit to using social media for professional reasons and be proactive about managing your activity and image. Consider what potential employers or colleagues will see - you don't want them to discover only pictures of you and your dog, or worse. Make sure at a minimum you have a LinkedIn account with a completed profile. Try tweeting or blogging about your area of expertise, thereby creating content that others can forward, retweet, or repost. This can help you establish yourself as an expert in your field.”

Amy Gallo (2012) in Harvard Business Review

Where should I start?

The list details the top professional networks. The popularity of these networks varies by locale so it is worthwhile choosing the networks most popular in your location and language. If you are not sure where to start, LinkedIn is a useful starting point.

I'm still a student! Why should I engage?

Magda Hercheui Senior Lecturer Project Management (Westminster Business School) talks about the relevance of Social media for organisations from communication to connecting to other people and how to get it right.

List of professional networks

Here are some of the world-leading professional networks. LinkedIn is currently the world-leading platform with Branchout classed as the largest such network on Facebook. Xing is predominantly German speaking and Viadeo is popular in French and Spanish (and Chinese via Tianji).


LinkedIn aims to "connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful". LinkedIn provides users with access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights from industry leaders. Users can build C.V. like profiles on LinkedIn and network with other members to gain skill endorsement and recommendations. The website features useful groups that allow professionals to network across a range of thematic, profession and disciplinary groups. A lot of recruiters use LinkedIn and it has an active jobs marketplace where companies post openings.


Branchout is a Facebook-based professional network. It helps users discover their connections for jobs, recruiting and sales. It uses existing Facebook profiles and messaging.


XING is a predominantly German-speaking professional network, but is available in English and several other languages. XING provides users with profiles, groups, discussion forums and event coordination. There are enterprise options (see below) to create organisational networks. A lot of recruiters use XING and users can browse job advertisements through XING Jobs. There is a full member directory for all XING profiles.


Viadeo is a predominantly European professional network but has a growing global reach due to a number of acquisitions (Such as the Chinese user base via Tianji). Viadeo provides users with the opportunity to build C.V. like profiles, make contacts, browse jobs and follow companies. Viadeo is used by a number of recruiters and it also features a dedicated recruitment section that displays companies who are currently hiring.

Enterprise networks

Some large organisations develop their own internal professional networks. These platforms are designed to aid collaboration within organisations as well as develop internal social networks. For this reason, enterprise professional networks restrict registration, often to employees only. There are multiple commercial solutions for these networks such as IBM Connections and Microsoft's Yammer. Whilst you cannot access these platforms outside of an organisation, ensuring you are familiar with social and professional networks like Facebook and LinkedIn can help you to quickly adapt.