LinkedIn and Facebook: Collision course?

by Mathew on December 10, 2007 · 22 comments

LinkedIn, the business-networking site that many (including me) see as an also-ran in the social-networking game, has launched some new features, including a redesigned homepage and a rollout of its previously announced developer platform, which it hopes will make its network as extensible as Facebook has with the F8 platform. Eric Eldon says the changes put LinkedIn ahead, but I must admit that I’m skeptical.

I know that many of my friends who are either looking for work or have been in the past say they get a lot out of LinkedIn, and I’m not saying it doesn’t have value — I think it does, although like my friend Mark Evans I rarely use it. It’s also good to see the network moving forward, even if most of what it is offering seems a little old (I mean, profile pictures? Come on). But the addition of things like a news aggregator for members and on-site messaging could make it more sticky.

That said, I still think that Facebook has a better value proposition for more people, and a better platform. I think the range of things you can do with and on the site is broader, and I think a site that is strictly business-oriented ignores the fact that people have a range of interests and relationships with their friends that in many cases goes beyond just the corporate (and I think Anne Zelenka of GigaOm agrees).

The alternative argument, of course, is that Facebook is just for twentysomethings who want to poke each other and put up goofy pictures. I think Facebook is moving away from that, and has been for some time. It will be interesting to see whether LinkedIn tries to become even more social, or whether it decides to stick to being primarily about business relationships.

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  • http://fitrans.blogspot.com Ryan Coleman

    “I think it does, although like my friend Mark Evans I rarely use it. “

    Yeah, there's certainly certain contexts where LInkedIn either makes loads of sense, or none at all.

    On our end we use it all the time as we're a heavily partner centric business. If we need to get an in-road with a specific vendor the first place we go to is usually LinkedIn to see who we know at the company, or closely connected to it.

    It's created a lot of conversations for us that would have otherwise taken months to get started.

  • Sulemaan

    I view Linkedin and Facebook as being separate. Linkedin is for work and Facebook is for play. I don't connect to the same people on Facebook as I do on Linkedin. I like to call it separation of Church and State.

    I also think that Linkedin only becomes useful once you get critical mass of connections. But like anything it's what you put in that translates what you get out.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I guess I don't have the same separation between church and state,
    Sulemaan. Most of the people I am interested in being connected with
    – whether for business or personal reasons — are on Facebook. There
    are some I am connected with only on LinkedIn, but my interaction with
    them is minimal. Will I increase that interaction because of
    LinkedIn's new features? I'm not sure, but I think it's probably
    unlikely.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's a good point, Ryan — and I think if I were in that kind of
    business, I would probably see a lot more value in it. So perhaps
    it's dependent on what you need from a social-networking tool.

  • aidanhenry

    Mathew,

    I'm in the same boat as you. I barely use LinkedIn. I use Facebook almost exclusively. Nearly all of my friends and colleagues use FB, and I find it much more productive and less confusing than LinkedIn.

    Although I do like the new changes, it's highly unlikely that I'm going to cross over or devote any more time to LinkedIn at this point. I do agree with Ryan's point, however, that certain industries are more suited to leverage LinkedIn than others…

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    So maybe LinkedIn users are from Mars, and Facebook users are from Venus? :-)

    For some reason, I keep thinking of Research In Motion when I think of
    LinkedIn — RIM is a company that was very successful focusing
    strictly on the business user, but eventually started to move more
    toward the non-business or consumer user, more or less out of
    necessity. I have a feeling LinkedIn is doing (or will do) the same.

    But how will die-hard LinkedIn users respond? For every one that likes
    the more social features, there will be some who liked it better the
    way it was.

  • http://dsimmer.com Dean Simmer

    “But how will die-hard LinkedIn users respond? For every one that likes
    the more social features, there will be some who liked it better the
    way it was.”

    The same can be said of Facebook and the other SNs as well. Facebook's high school roll out, followed 6-10 months later by the “open it up to everybody” then followed by the 3rd-party applications drove some users away, but the majority adjusted and conformed (like myself). The same thing will probably happen with LinkedIn. When looking from a sheer numbers perspective, it probably won't set them back, and it will suggest to its dedicated base that they are serious about moving forward and staying a serious player in the SN network. That is why you see so many older SNs, blog networks, whatever sitting back in the scrap-heap of 2003. Sure, they are still active, but their user bases have all-but fled to some other newfangled contraption.

    For example, in high school nearly everyone had a Xanga “blog” and now it's a mere joke a high school reunions nationwide.

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish Grier

    Matt…one thing I often find is that the worlds of tech and business journalism (as well as certain sectors of marketing) are a lot different in their sense of “friend” than other professions and in people's perceptions. Hence, it makes a great deal for folks to have a the option of keeping a nice separation between church and state, as you say.

    There are times when letting your employer know your political affiliations or what you did over the weekend is inappropriate (esp. for young people just entering the job market.) So, I worry a bit about some of LinkedIn's new features and if it's not getting a tad too Facebook-y contingent on what the business journos and Silicon Valley techies are saying about it rather than in what its customers need. Frankly, we should be able to pick our friends *and* pick our business associates and keep them separate until the time is right. Working with like-minded friends who know all your comings and goings (via social networking) can be a real double-edged sword when the business end of the friendship doesn't go according to the “rules” of either business or friendship.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's true, Tish — and I think one of the things we're seeing with
    both Facebook and LinkedIn is people (and the sites themselves) trying
    to figure out how to balance those two things, and how to allow people
    to make more distinctions rather than lump everyone into either the
    “friend” or “business contact” buckets.

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  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, mojodean — it's true that at least LinkedIn
    is thinking about how to adapt to fit what its market wants. It's
    interesting to think about what the transition from Xanga to
    Friendster to MySpace and Facebook has meant in terms of the evolution
    of social networks, or whether in fact much has changed at all. And
    will people want one network for business and one for social purposes,
    or do they just want one portal for everything?

  • http://doctorofthinkology.blogspot.com DocThink

    Okay, it could be just be that I am old, but most of my for-real friends don't use Facebook. The social networkers among my peers are more likely to have a professional profile on LinkedIn.

    Forty-somethings whose kids have been through xanga, then myspace, and now Facebook are not flocking to Facebook, but my LinkedIn network keeps growing. Maybe it's a DC thing, or maybe my circle is odd, but FB is pretty quiet among my peers. Just another anecdotal experience..

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's interesting, Doc — my Facebook network continues to grow
    daily, but my LinkedIn network hasn't budged in a while. Maybe that
    says more about me than it does about either one :-)

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    So maybe LinkedIn users are from Mars, and Facebook users are from Venus? :-)

    For some reason, I keep thinking of Research In Motion when I think of
    LinkedIn — RIM is a company that was very successful focusing
    strictly on the business user, but eventually started to move more
    toward the non-business or consumer user, more or less out of
    necessity. I have a feeling LinkedIn is doing (or will do) the same.

    But how will die-hard LinkedIn users respond? For every one that likes
    the more social features, there will be some who liked it better the
    way it was.

  • http://dsimmer.com Dean Simmer

    “But how will die-hard LinkedIn users respond? For every one that likes
    the more social features, there will be some who liked it better the
    way it was.”

    The same can be said of Facebook and the other SNs as well. Facebook's high school roll out, followed 6-10 months later by the “open it up to everybody” then followed by the 3rd-party applications drove some users away, but the majority adjusted and conformed (like myself). The same thing will probably happen with LinkedIn. When looking from a sheer numbers perspective, it probably won't set them back, and it will suggest to its dedicated base that they are serious about moving forward and staying a serious player in the SN network. That is why you see so many older SNs, blog networks, whatever sitting back in the scrap-heap of 2003. Sure, they are still active, but their user bases have all-but fled to some other newfangled contraption.

    For example, in high school nearly everyone had a Xanga “blog” and now it's a mere joke a high school reunions nationwide.

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish Grier

    Matt…one thing I often find is that the worlds of tech and business journalism (as well as certain sectors of marketing) are a lot different in their sense of “friend” than other professions and in people's perceptions. Hence, it makes a great deal for folks to have a the option of keeping a nice separation between church and state, as you say.

    There are times when letting your employer know your political affiliations or what you did over the weekend is inappropriate (esp. for young people just entering the job market.) So, I worry a bit about some of LinkedIn's new features and if it's not getting a tad too Facebook-y contingent on what the business journos and Silicon Valley techies are saying about it rather than in what its customers need. Frankly, we should be able to pick our friends *and* pick our business associates and keep them separate until the time is right. Working with like-minded friends who know all your comings and goings (via social networking) can be a real double-edged sword when the business end of the friendship doesn't go according to the “rules” of either business or friendship.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's true, Tish — and I think one of the things we're seeing with
    both Facebook and LinkedIn is people (and the sites themselves) trying
    to figure out how to balance those two things, and how to allow people
    to make more distinctions rather than lump everyone into either the
    “friend” or “business contact” buckets.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, mojodean — it's true that at least LinkedIn
    is thinking about how to adapt to fit what its market wants. It's
    interesting to think about what the transition from Xanga to
    Friendster to MySpace and Facebook has meant in terms of the evolution
    of social networks, or whether in fact much has changed at all. And
    will people want one network for business and one for social purposes,
    or do they just want one portal for everything?

  • http://doctorofthinkology.blogspot.com DocThink

    Okay, it could be just be that I am old, but most of my for-real friends don't use Facebook. The social networkers among my peers are more likely to have a professional profile on LinkedIn.

    Forty-somethings whose kids have been through xanga, then myspace, and now Facebook are not flocking to Facebook, but my LinkedIn network keeps growing. Maybe it's a DC thing, or maybe my circle is odd, but FB is pretty quiet among my peers. Just another anecdotal experience..

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's interesting, Doc — my Facebook network continues to grow
    daily, but my LinkedIn network hasn't budged in a while. Maybe that
    says more about me than it does about either one :-)

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