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How Online Social Networks Work


Information Technology Social Networks
Internet professionals rely on social-networking sites to communicate with other IT professionals and to network.
Internet professionals rely on social-networking sites to communicate with other IT professionals and to network.
© Photographer: Rosmizan Abu Seman | Agency: Dreamstime

Information technology professionals and amateur geeks have been gathering online since Usenet fi­rst launched in 1979. For people who spend their workday in front of a computer facing new technology challenges, it's natural that IT professionals took quickly to online forums, newsgroups and discussion boards. IT social networks are the latest extension of these virtual communities.

IT Toolbox is a global information technology social network with more than a million members. Following the standard model of online social networks, members of IT Toolbox can create user profiles with personal information, professional experience, a profile photo and even a blog.

IT Toolbox members can search out colleagues and new contacts in their profession and invite them to become a connection. These connections then show up as links on the member's profile page.

However, the majority of the action on  information technology social networks still takes place on the message boards. IT Toolbox allows members to form groups to discuss the latest topics in their fields. Or users can add tips and ask questions on special "knowledgebase" pages dedicated to topics like networking or Java. The site also hosts an IT Wiki open to submissions and edits from members.

Job postings are an important part of any information technology social network. Information technology is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the US economy (network systems analyst is the #2 fastest-growing job after home health aide) [source: Career OneStop]. Employers looking for top talent will not only post jobs on information technology social networks, but browse for qualified members to poach from other companies.

There exist many other social networks that don't have as much functionality as a site like IT Toolbox, but are still important gathering places for the tech community. Slashdot is a tech news site that's been drawing an avid membership since 1997. And Digg, one of the most popular social bookmarking sites, has a decidedly tech news bent as well.

On the next page, we'll talk about social-networking sites for adults.