Work is a little light this month so I’ve been taking advantage of the lull to explore the two major, public social networks — Facebook and LinkedIn. As always through the lens of discovering how a tool can be useful in business.
It’s not hard to find the business angle for LinkedIn. Salespeople and job seekers have been using it since the beginning to expand their networks and connect with potential prospects and employers. Especially in high tech.
Who do you want to meet? Do a search to find out if someone in your network knows the person you’d like to know. Not connected directly? You can use a LinkedIn introduction to get connected, although I haven’t done so yet. No one I want to meet that badly, I guess.
Pretty useful. Pretty established. In that specific niche. But it’s not terribly sticky. You log in, look and leave.
It’s a network, but it’s not a community. What’s the difference? My opinion only, YMMV. A social network connects individuals. A community interacts. We expect members of a community to have something in common, a reason to converse with others. Yup, the old C word again: Conversation.
You won’t have a community without one or more social networks to provide the connections, but a network is not necessarily a community.
But it seems LinkedIn would like to be a community. Otherwise, why would it have community evangelist Mario Sundar on staff? The question is, can it become a community? Should it? What can be added to the experience that would make it one? Why not leave well enough alone and continue to do what it does so well for so many?
Well, the answer is of course, what if another service comes in and manages to do both — make connections and facilitate conversations? Something like oh uh, Facebook?
Facebook is fast becoming much much more than the Internet version of the college facebook. If that were all it was, I wouldn’t bother.
The open API makes all the difference. Third party developers are linking their tools into Facebook, so now I can have all the "stuff" in one place. Twitter. RSS. Flickr. Movie reviews. And not so much my stuff as my friends’ stuff. Because it’s not just about connecting. It’s about sharing information. Where we are. What we are doing. What our friends are saying. That’s what makes it a community.
The principal drawback of Facebook is that it is hard to find people. You need to know their email address or stumble upon them in a group or a friend’s friends. This security measure is a legacy of the product’s initial user base: college and high school students, and an important one. It’s one thing if an adult shares her personal information. Quite another if a 9th grader does so.
The Facebook platform helps people who already know each other stay connected. But it’s not the best place to make a new connection. For that, you probably still want to use LinkedIn.
What do I really want? Something that does both. Loosely manage and access an extended network of contacts with space for playing and connecting with friends. One UI, one log-in and one password please.
Quick take: Based on what we can publicly see about the two companies and assuming they want to play in the sandbox, Facebook will have an easier time doing this than LinkedIn. It has first mover advantage with the open platform and a loyal user base among the people entering the workforce.
Plus, it is way more fun. As Beth Kanter twitted last week: Facebook is like crack. Internet crack. I’ve only been using it for a little while, but am fast becoming addicted. Last night, I messed around looking for other Getgoods. Just because, let’s face it, it’s not like looking for Smiths or Joneses. And discovered that I am the oldest Getgood currently on Facebook. By a longshot. A dubious distinction, but oh well.
Speaking of Twitter…. I’ve started using it just to give a periodic status. Something I want to share, with my Twitter and Facebook friends and blog readers, but don’t plan to write about. A pointless WebEx. The puppies born last week. Etc. Perhaps if I were traveling more, I’d use it to talk with friends and colleagues. Like Josh Hallet did last night when he was stranded in DC.
What do you think? How are you using these new social media tools? Are you?
Bonus Question: What about MySpace? Is it still relevant as a community platform or is it becoming just a blogging platform with music?