Linkedin Social Work Groups
LinkedIn is one source of groups related to social work.
by Ellen Belluomini, LCSW
The social work profession thrives through connections with individuals and systems. Twenty years ago, I relied on my supervisor, co-workers, trainings, community meetings, and organizational newsletters to develop my networking with colleagues. These options still provide a good place to start building your contacts. Don’t let the opportunities for professional growth end within this circle. Advances in technology offer global access to resources, enabling a richness and depth to relationships never before possible.
If you are reading this article in The New Social Worker or on its website, you have a taste of the possibilities offered online. The following list provides guidelines to foster growth of your online networking potential.
Start with the basics. Decide why connecting is important and how much time you can devote to discussions. Motivation for professional interaction varies. Friendship, diversity in colleagues, keeping up to date in the field, career potential, or collaboration opportunities are all valid reasons for networking. Free time is precious to dedicated social workers. One hour on Sundays is enough to start developing your network.
List each passion or interest. Internet options for connections can be overwhelming. Keeping up with reading e-mail can be a challenge. How do you cultivate online relationships and keep new connections manageable? Enthusiasm about a topic will increase your interest in making and keeping related social media connections. Begin by only exploring your top one or two passions. Be specific. Narrowing topics leads to an increase in efficiency of your time and efforts. There is a big difference between “social work in a skilled nursing center specializing in dementia care units” and “I love social work!” Create a goal for connecting. A goal will help narrow your scope, providing direction in types of social networks to enter. Future employment contacts can be nurtured through Google +, LinkedIn, and Meetup groups. If you are looking for support, there are numerous online support groups available. Collaboration on programs or research can be started through your groups or sites such as Academia.edu. Social needs can be met through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Almost every university or social media group has connections to the big three. Subscriptions to social work magazines, blogs, and relevant newsfeeds will help generate content to post within the group.
Develop a strategy. Depending on the area of interest, strategies will differ. LinkedIn offers many group connections but is at times impersonal. Sustained relationships are more likely in group forums like Google+ or Meetup.com. When you join a group, evaluate it to determine if it meets your needs. Go back through the posts and comments. Is this a community you want to be a part of? Identify how many posts you will make a week. Setting specific times for posting helps keep groups manageable. I go to social media the last 30 minutes I will be on my computer. I see it as a reward for hard work.
Be proactive in each community. Just as in person, impressions can be made online and will stay in the psyche of people. Discussions and impressions are developed through your posts. Posting information relative to the community is an opportunity. Be constructive and add to the quality of information, or be friendly and supportive. Help your followers to want to get to know the person behind the post.
Become global searching for linkages. Social work is worldwide. Australia, Canada, China, Great Britain, and other countries offer diverse insights about evidence-based practices, social justice issues, and alternative programming. Learning about other cultures and problem solving strategies develops empathy for our client populations. Through global relationships, we can challenge our ignorance, improve the accuracy of our knowledge, and build global solutions together.
Think toward future possibilities. No one likes when someone pops into a community only to ask for favors or promote themselves. Connections made now can lead to important relationships. Nurture your groups as you would a budding relationship. Nurture trust, support, and respect in your communication. Be consistent. These relationships need nurturing as plants need light and water. If you forget about a plant, it will wither away. Dedication to relationships creates endless possibilities.
My presence in social work groups has led to an increasing support network, educational opportunities, research collaboration, consulting, and speaking engagements. These groups meet personal and professional needs. The New Social Worker, Social Justice Solutions, Social Work Helper, and GovLoop are sites where I have found opportunities for education, networking, and advocacy efforts. Through a professional relationship I developed online, my crisis intervention class was able to join a Twitter debate on gun control with three other schools of social work. Students heard opinions from peers and other professors, and the experience opened them up to connections across the country. I posted to my social work and technology Google+ group about joining me in an ethics and technology course offered by Coursera. One of the members offered her participation. We are going to support each other through the course. I enjoy finding new ways to play with these groups. My creativity is fed by others willing to experiment within the context of advancing the field of social work.
The future is promising for online connections. As communities and relationships move toward an online environment, the sophistication of digital options will increase. Second Life offers virtual environments with personal interaction through avatars. Avatars can manipulate their environment. Social workers may be able to participate in global experiences through this milieu. Low- or no-cost video conferencing is offered by Google Hangout, Skype, and FaceTime. These options can increase group cohesiveness of online groups. Nextt may be an option once a group has been established. This new social media interface offers a private network for online coordination and in-person interactions. The platform uses a “blended” approach to track projects, ideas, and meetings of groups. Relationships, conferences, meetings, and think tanks can start online and manifest into face--to-face collaborations. Wherever the future is headed, one thing is certain—social media will be an intricate part of our personal and professional lives.
Ellen M. Belluomini, LCSW, received her MSW from University of Illinois, Jane Addams School of Social Work and is currently a doctoral student at Walden University. She is a lecturer at Dominican University. She has developed online and blended curricula with an emphasis on integrating technology into human services practice. She writes a blog, “Bridging the Digital Divide in Social Work Practice,” to increase awareness about technology’s uses. She presents and consults on various issues related to social services. Her clinical work has been in private practice, management of nonprofit agencies, and programming for vulnerable populations.