Thursday, July 06, 2006

The staying power of business-oriented social networking

The business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn has generated a substantial following, lots of hype, privacy concerns from skeptics, and disdain from other skeptics. Is it a useful tool for making connections in business or an overhyped exercise in narcissism?

I'm a fan of LinkedIn. I can't point to any particular business success I can attribute to LinkedIn, but it has helped me learn about people and companies I've encountered in the real world, and I continue to build my LinkedIn network. I'm aware of the privacy concerns, and I've been turned down by people who don't like the whole idea, but I'm careful about what information I share in the system.

I do question the likelihood that people will maintain an involvement in more than one social network. The student-oriented Facebook and more social MySpace don't really compete with LinkedIn, but there are other business-oriented networking sites, like Ryze and Ecademy. I can't comment on their relative merits, because I haven't spent any time with them. Although I have an account on Ryze, I just can't see duplicating the effort that has gone into my LinkedIn network. I also can't imagine inviting the same people into multiple social networking sites. Claiming more than 6 million members—compared to 250,000 for Ryze and 80,000 for Ecademy—LinkedIn seems to be the winner for now.

A link from a comment on Andy Beal's blog took me from Jeremiah Owyang to Guy Kawasaki and eventually to an interesting variety of perspectives on social networking. Tristan Louis takes both sides of the discussion with 5 reasons why social networks fail and 5 reasons why social networks can succeed. Fred Stutzman raises an interesting challenge to LinkedIn in situational relevance in social networking websites:
Unfortunately for LinkedIn, the only time people strongly rely on their personal-professional secondary social network are in times of need. When someone has a comfortable job, there is limited incentive to invest much time in a site like LinkedIn. While LinkedIn serves a real need, its users will never be simultaneously vested in the system the way Facebook's users are.

Fortunately for those networkers in need, recruiters have discovered the value in LinkedIn. I think the value is there for other functions, too, especially those who interact with other companies—and anyone who might end up visiting the job market some day. The best time to build your network is before you need it, and LinkedIn is a good tool with a variety of uses.



At 7/06/2006 10:54 PM, Blogger Jeremiah Owyang said...

Thanks for the link --it's intersting how you 'creeped' from link to link to find the final content

Isn't this an example of a social network in action?

Great write up thanks!

At 7/14/2006 11:25 AM, Blogger Nathan Gilliatt said...

Yes, it is.

Following the links is a good example of how getting more out of social media and search is as much a question of habit and mindset as a matter of technical skill. It didn't require any special knowledge, but most people wouldn't do it. They would have stopped with the original topic, which was "google" being added to the dictionary. Look how much more was waiting to be found.


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