Monday, August 13, 2007

Linkedin vs. Facebook

About a month ago Jeff Pulver wrote a blog post on why he was ditching Facebook in favor of Facebook. Then to add insult to injury he wrote "viewpoint" for Businessweek on the topic, Confessions of a LinkedIn Dropout. Having known Reid and LinkedIn for a very long time (I was an early beta tester, before the site was live) my investment in LinkedIn is considerable. I have invested in using the tool as a professional network (over 350 contacts) and as a resume ( and used it successfully to recruit employees, do background checks, and stay in touch with old colleagues. On the facebook side, I had a login with no profile - just created as a holding place.

But at the same time that Jeff was writing his post and article, I was watching an interesting thing happen. While it had taken years of deliberate active effort to build my Linkedin network to 350 people, within 2 months my Facebook network grew to 60 people and is still growing - organically with no effort on my part. And as it has grown, I have gained significant benefits from being in closer touch with these 60 people -- I am finding out about events, interesting articles, and gaining insights into my friends lives.

In short, I am being drawn into Facebook and can also see a day when I might abandon LinkedIn. How did this happen? What did LinkedIn do wrong? And will Reid's recently announced attempt to launch his own open platform for applications on LinkedIn help save the company?

I believe that crux of the problem lies in the way each company looks at "first circle" uses (as Reid might call them). In LinkedIn terminology, you have different kinds of things that you would do with people depending upon whether you know them directly (first circle) or whether they are a friend of a friend (n circles). To me, this distinction is the primary strategic difference between these two social networks. Where LinkedIn focuses on things you might do to connect to people n circles away from you, Facebook is focused on first circle uses -- how do you stay connected with the people you already know.

For awhile now I have thought that this would mean that the two tools would have distinct uses and that I would continue to use both. But I am realizing that first circle uses absolutely trump n circle uses in a tool like this, and I think the reason may hold a lesson for all social media applications.

Because Facebook is alerting me now multiple times a day with interesting items from my friends, I am spending more and more time adding content to it myself, resulting in a positive network effect. As each of the people get more engaged, more value is created for all of the participants and each participant is encouraged to get more engaged. LinkedIn, by contrast, is a cold and distant planet that I might visit once in awhile if I have a very specific objective in mind.

So while LinkedIn becomes a more and more core part of my online existence, LinkedIn becomes a more and more peripheral part. I don't have to write a blog post and an article for Businessweek about abandoning LinkedIn in favor of Facebook - it is just happening without my even noticing.

It is definitely not too late for LinkedIn. There is still time to correct the problem. But the place to focus on product development is the daily experience with my first circle, not the application platform. While the open API will eventually be useful, developers will only write applications for a platform that people use. That problem must be solved first.

1 comment:

SherryL said...

Ted, we've not met and i did not know your work until today when i discovered your blog post contrasting LinkedIn/Facebook.

I've been on LinkIn several years and see the purpose of it (at least for me) to be much more career/business related. For this, it's continuing to be very directly related to my business interests and a good way to stay in touch not only with people but their own career-evolvement process, as well.

Facebook, in contrast, is for me more social and personalized connectionally purposeful around multiples of shared interests. Career/business may well be one but i find there it's more about the day-to-day living stuff, additionally, and personal perspectives shared on topics of keen, current interests.

I'm newer to Facebook as of literally this Summer '08, but like you, quickly saw my involvement and contact-exchange list of "friends" morph well over several hundred within weeks. At least 50% of those "friends" i've never even met "live" and well over half of them initiated with ME vs vice-versa is the case on LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, i literally KNOW personally every single, linked person and do not tend to use the extended outreach options there.

i pay for neither -- and if the choice came down to a paid subscription or no-participation in both, I'd defiitely consider keeping Facebook fully engaged for a small monthly fee. I'd probably opt to stick with whatever "free" LinkedIn version the company would surely be smart enough to still offer be the future scope of that one.

Interesting, i only now realized in some ways the "fun" of Facebook rules the value for me over the "practicality" piece of LinkedIn, at least the way i currently participate within both.

Thanks for raising the contrasting considerations in your blog. I'll enjoy revisiting periodically and checking out some of your other ideas.

Sherry Lowry - Austin Texas USA
Facebook and LinkedIn: Sherry Lowry
Twitter: sherrylowry