Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Comparing Apples and Oranges: Linkedin and Facebook

By Dennis D. McDonald

In LinkedIn vs. Facebook 6 Months Later, Bernard Lunn writes:

  • Similar. Both try to get you to use their messaging. That is such a retrograde step. Why would anybody use a proprietary email system that is limited only to that service? I have occasionally used LinkedIn messaging but only because I had no other alternative. If that person is a genuine contact, then I have their email address, why would I use anything else? One semi-plausible reason is spam control, but Gmail has got that issue pretty well nailed in my opinion.
  • Different. Facebook prompts public communication e.g the Wall. That is fun/different I guess. I also assume it gets old fairly quickly. What is the business value? We are talking deals, not dates here. In business this is like online whiteboard services, used for collaboration. Do I need to be on Facebook to do that?

I like Lunn’s comment about messaging; sometimes I like the availability of a network’s integrated messaging, sometimes I don’t. Having to belong to someone’s online social network in order to interact with him or her online seems like a bogus advantage that actually harms an individual’s overall potential for online networking and communication, especially when it’s necessary to bridge the gaps between markets, communities, or territories.

Lunn comes out pretty clearly with the view that Linkedin is better for business use than Facebook. I agree — but I knew that six months ago. In fact, my use of Facebook as a networking/communication tool has plummeted so much that I recently wiped out all my Facebook group memberships in order to start over. (I’ve been documenting my own Facebook experiences in Dennis McDonald’s Personal Facebook Saga.)

Why start over with Facebook? Some people I know and trust do belong and use it, and it is an interesting sandbox in which various social networking applications are being tried.

Some things about Facebook definitely do annoy me, though, chief among them the way invitations to start using certain applications are handled; in many cases you have to accept an application invitation to see what you’re getting into, and I find that too annoying.

As far as Linkedin is concerned, I do continue to use it. It’s a very useful research and networking tool and I enjoy the business orientation. One feature that I do find wanting, however, is how it handles messaging; I dislike how, when I don’t have a direct connection with an individual, I have to go through all sorts of hoops to communicate with that individual. Generally I prefer not to ask others whom I don’t really know well to pass along messages. I used to accept a lot of connections in my early days to build up my Linkedin network before I discoverd how counterproductive weak connections can be in many business networking situations.

One area of Linkedin I have not explored is the increased availability of Linkedin groups. Given that I already have so many other outlets for networking activities, though, I’m not sure how far I’ll go with that. We’ll see.

Finally, it’s interesting to speculate about the “data portability” relationship between Linkedin and Facebook.  Here’s what the DataPortabity Project says about its mission:

DataPortability is a group created to promote the idea that individuals have control over their data by determing how they can use it and who can use it. This includes access to data that is under the control of another entity.

In my own meager attempts to keep track of what’s happening on the DataPortability Project — I especially like their podcasts — I have come to realize how much of a problem controlling “…access to data that is under the econtrol of another entity” is. Even if the problem of defining what a basic personal profile looks like is solved, defining the relationship between personally-controlled and network-controlled data seems insurmountable when approached on a general basis. Linkedin and Facebook are cases in point.

Do I even care whether I can transfer my “connection” data back and forth between these two services? I once may have thought so but now I’m not so sure, given how differently these two networks function. In fact, I’m beginning to prefer that different networks develop different capabilities and features to differentiate themselves and compete.

I just don’t want them to require me to turn over all rights in perpetuity to intellectual property I might generate as part of my membership. That seems a related — but separate — issue from being able to move personal profile and relationship data from Facebook to Linekdin, or vice versa.

  • Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald

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