Social Networking Site “LinkedIn” Is Neither Social Nor A Network: Discuss

 With all due apologies to Linda Richman, I thought I might take a stab at the social networking site LinkedIn, suss out its value to the business professional as source for networking, and ascertain whether it really is “MySpace for Grownups.”

As described in the Wikipedia entry for “LinkedIn”:

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003[1] mainly used for professional networking. As of December 2007, its site traffic was 3.2 million visitors per month, growing at an annual growth rate of about 485%.[2] As of May 2008, it had more than 22 million registered users,[3] spanning 150 industries.

It is described as a business social networking site: you sign up as a member for free, fill out information about yourself relevant to your networking aspirations and seek to make contacts with other LinkedIn members. You can search for other members based on various criteria and invite them to join your own network, building a virtual database of contact details. You also can access second and third degree contacts – persons known to your first level contacts – via your first level contacts. Theoretically, this web of contacts is intended to generate jobs and business opportunities. Employers and corporate members can list jobs and search unconnected members for likely candidates. This is where the site’s profit margin comes from: recruiters or businesses that wish to be able to mine the profiles of members outside the contact network pay for the privilege. For the rest of us, LinkedIn represents a “gated access approach”, intended to provide members with a sense of security regarding their information and the quality of contacts. There is also a forum called LinkedIn Answers which permits members to pose questions to the community for general discussion. LinkedIn Groups allows you to join a group based on your school, your industry or your profession.

For the mobile user, LinkedIn started a stripped down mobile version in February, 2008.

The value of LinkedIn and comparisons to the wildly popular social networking sites MySpace and Facebook are not new topics. Over a year ago, Seamus McCauley wrote in his blog “Virtual Economics” that the problem with LinkedIn is that it doesn’t do anything. “You sign up, you find some colleagues, you link to them and then…nothing.” Umair, in the blog BubbleEdge Generation, claims the real problem with LinkedIn is that there is no meaningful opportunity for interaction: LinkedIn is too clean compared to the “ugly, nasty, digital ghetto” of MySpace. In other words, LinkedIn apparently has sacrificed open dialog for gated security. The commenters on these blogs do not necessarily agree with these conclusions, describing circumstances in which LinkedIn has provided them with real value. Facebook, which also has the “gate” of requiring an email upon sign up, appears to bridge the MySpace and LinkedIn models.

There does appear to be some utility in LinkedIn, however, as its growing popularity attests to. The following chart, from simplyhired.com shows an increase in jobs secured through LinkedIn, although the other sites, which have an overall numbers advantage, have shown a similar increase during the same period.

 

5 comments on “Social Networking Site “LinkedIn” Is Neither Social Nor A Network: Discuss

  1. Linkedin is definitely gaining popularity among legal professionals, so much so that well respected legal book publishers have gotten into the game. Martindale-Hubbell has now set up Martindale-Hubbell Connected at http://www.martindale.com/connected
    Also, there is a lot of chatter about twitter (or is that twitter about chatter?) as a legal networking tool. I am going to do an entry on twitter soon. So much to learn about, so little time.

  2. A few comments:

    1) I agree that Linkedin isn’t the greatest for making connections with new people in your industry – but it’s a very interesting means of updating the ones you do know. One way to attract attention is to update your “presence” (the element that allows linkedin contacts to know what you’re up to) ie. “Molly is working on a presentation about social networking in the enterprise.” It takes a minute to update and keeps you top of mind with your business contacts. You can also include links. The presence data appears in the timeline of all of your contacts. You can also use the profile links to draw attention to recent reports/thought leadership.

    2) Linkedin attracts a completely different demographic from MySpace – can you really compare the two? Not sure about you but I find MySpace doesn’t attract professionals… but would like to hear your thoughts.

    3) I think a different approach is needed on linkedin… contributing to “linkedin answers” in a valuable way is one way to get noticed on linkedin. We monitor and filter questions using Yahoo Pipes.

    We occasionally shareinformation about how to extract more value out of Linkedin on our blog. Here are two good ones:

    http://www.nonlinear.ca/blog/index.php/2008/04/08/case-study-comparing-marketing-effectiveness-of-linkedin-facebook-myspace-stumbleupon-and-twitter/

    http://www.nonlinear.ca/blog/index.php/2007/06/26/effective-marketing-on-linkedin/

  3. All good information. For more discussion about Linkedin and the legal profession, check out Robert Ambrogi’s two part discussion at http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1202422007910 and http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1202423612473&rss=newswire. Also, my impression matches yours with respect to the Linkedin and MySpace comparison, but I do believe that the differences between social networks will diminish and resemblances will grow over time as MySpace users age and their needs change. I think it would be short-sighted to ignore the possibilities of professional networking on any social networking site.

  4. Thanks! These are great links… Funny, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how social networking and the legal profession are colliding. I have a few clients who will really appreciat this info.

    Definitely not ignoring MySpace – just didn’t think it was relevant to professional networking (unless you’re in the music business)… from what I understand, they are trying to expand from the youth demographic but it’ll be a tough go. Would love to know if you’ve had a different experience. There was an interesting overview of the recent MySpace redesign by adaptive path that I thought was pretty interesting: http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/newsletter/archives/062008/index.php

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