by Michelle Guillemard
I can reveal, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it weren’t for networking.
As well as giving me more virtual colleagues, online networking has enabled me to make friends along the way. I’ve had jobs referred to me and have referred jobs to other writers. In fact, one of my best clients came from my online networking efforts.
Of course, I’m not the only one who adores networking. A quick Google search and you’ll find tons of articles listing their top five benefits of networking or nine benefits of networking, for example.
For writers, the benefits associated with online networking tend to include:
- Referrals, which lead to increased business and work opportunities
- Expanding your connections, which can also result in more work
- Advice, both giving and receiving, which is useful for beginners and experienced writers
- Boosting your confidence, by sharing tips as well as explaining what you do and why you do it
There are plenty of other benefits to online networking – including those that aren’t directly related to business, like making new friends and the personal satisfaction gained from social interaction.
Freelancers who are used to working at home alone need to pay particular attention to their mental health and networking can be a great way to promote a positive headspace.
It’s clear the benefits to stepping away from your word processor of choice and engaging with others are numerous. So if you’re new to online networking, where should you begin? And how can you find high-quality groups to belong to?
PharmeMed is a business and professional network, similar to LinkedIn, however the focus is in the healthcare sector and as a result offers more relevance.
Online networking via LinkedIn
Perhaps the obvious choice is to begin with the king of online business networking, LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other likeminded professionals and boost your profile, as I’ve mentioned previously.
However, LinkedIn is both a blessing and a curse of sorts: there are many groups – so many that it can be difficult to know which groups are worth joining.
Due to the sheer number of LinkedIn users (300 million and counting according to this post), you will always find that the most active groups have thousands of members.
But are all of these members actually engaged in the discussions? The answer is often no. However, as long as there is some form of lively and useful debate on the majority of the posts – which you can ascertain from the level of engagement on any given post – you’ll find it a benefit.
Engagement means Comments as well as Likes. Often, it’s not the articles being linked to that are most valuable but the comments beneath them. Sometimes I don’t even read the articles; I just like to enjoy the debate!
Engagement also means choosing quantity over quality. You need to be careful not to fall into the trap of joining a group with a catchy title only to realise that it’s full of people dropping links.
When I find a new LinkedIn group with an interesting-sounding title, I like to do a test to see if it’s worth joining: if the first ten posts have no engagement (ie zero Likes and Comments) then I usually don’t bother with it. If I can see some useful and recent debate, I join.
- European Medical Writers Association 3,000+ members
- Medical Writing and Medical Communication Network – 2,714 members
- American Medical Writers Association – almost 4,000 members
- Professional Medical/Scientific Writers – 7,500 members
- Applying Social Media in Health – 749 members
- MedComms Forum 2,829 members
- Medical Writers Forum – 7,604 members
Copywriting Training, with 15,000+ members, is an example of a group with lots of members and a good level of engagement.
Online networking via Meetup groups
Meetup is a great way to find local groups that meet up in person as well as chat online.
One group that I’ve recently joined is the Freelance Jungle which links up freelancers in different Australian cities. While this particular group is not specifically related to health and medical writing, I’ve found that meeting up with other freelancers offers the opportunity to meet people in likeminded industries and professions, like graphic designers, editors, and public relations professionals, who are still great contacts to forge for work and future opportunities. Plus, getting out there and mingling in person is great for your mental health, as mentioned previously – particularly if you find you’re stuck in a soloist rut.
I haven’t found any medical writing or health writing-related groups on Meetup yet (if you have, please post a link to them in the comments!) so why not start one in your local area?
Google Plus and Facebook
I’ve observed that a lot of health writers are still new to Google Plus and can’t really be bothered getting into it. However, it does have the potential to be quite a valuable professional tool. I’m a member of several active writing communities, and some Meetup groups like Freelance Jungle also have linked Google Plus communities which makes arranging meetups even easier.
Beause Google Plus isn’t as popular as other networks like LinkedIn and Facebook you may find that groups with hundreds of members have few or no contributions. Persevere, because Google Plus IS increasing in popularity and will continue to be a valuable network for medical writers.
Facebook is a great way to network with other writers on the fly, because people tend to stay logged in to their Facebook accounts during the day, either on their computers, phones or devices, meaning that alerts are instant. This makes response time quite rapid if you have an urgent question.
Tip: If you’re linking your personal Facebook account to a professional group, you need to be comfortable that your privacy settings are up to date and that your profile information is SFW (safe for work).
I’d love to hear about the online networking groups you’re a part of and why they work. Share in the comments below!