How Effective Are LinkedIn and Facebook

have been using LinkedIn for a couple of years now and Facebook for
about 6 months. While I have found both interesting and have played
with an array of Facebook applications, I haven’t found either
extremely useful from a business perspective. In comparing notes with
others, most tell me that they use them but neither has led much to new
sales, key introductions, etc. Why is this?

On the LinkedIn side, the issue seems to be that the benefits are
asymetrical. When I contact someone, I am always asking for a favor. I
am not building up goodwill through other interactions and then drawing
down on this. No, I am simply pimping friends and one off relations for
direct intros. While I can see six degrees away, I can really only
access two degrees (maybe three if I work hard). It’s awkward and
doesn’t usually lead to an effective intro when I ask a friend to
solicit a favor with his/her friend for an intro. The third degree
doesn’t know me from Adam and, at best, takes an email as a courtesy. I
am hesitant to hit the network hard (as are most of my friends) as I
don’t want to be the guy know as the favor "spam" guy.

Also, the chance of finding a nearby hit depends upon how many links
I have. However, for those people with 10,000 friends, how close can
those connections really be?

At least Facebook give me an array of reasons to interact with
friends or people. I can get an updated view into what friends are
doing and have several ways to engage ranging from books, travel and
such. However, as I add friends, the noise in my feeds grows
exponentially. There are so many applications and ways, one is at a
loss on how to best interact. At least, I can pick my closer
connections and use FB to tighten my bonds there. However, finding the
intro to the head of Cisco’s bus dev group is not so intuitive or easy.
I need a full time associate whose job it is to figure out our business
(and personal needs) and to figure out which apps help us get there.

So, as I click away on the various accept link or friend offers, I
wonder if it is going anywhere or am I just adding more noise to my
world. For now, I’ll probably focus on bringing good friends and
acquaintances into FB and use it to stay closer to them. Still not
certain what I’ll do with the growing LinkedIn web.

If anyone has figured out best practices that are common sense, low
overhead (e.g. Not a second job) and effective, let me know…

9 thoughts on “How Effective Are LinkedIn and Facebook

  1. I completely agree! It’s interesting to note that my LinkedIn and Facebook connections are almost mutually exclusive. Perhaps LinkedIn could be a bit more proactive in facilitating online and offline meetings via algorithmically smart e-introductions, or offline meetups.

  2. Hi Matt,
    To me it’s fairly simple : LinkedIn is highly useful, Facebook is a big waste of time. Here’s why:
    LinkedIn DNA is to help people do business with other people. The product is built to that extent, and people are joining because of it.
    I guess that one of the merits of a great networking is to first offer your help to others, yet quickly ask for a return favor. If you do that, you’ll have a great network of people who have been helped by you, and willing to reach out whenever you shout.
    An approach by an InMail, LinkedIn paid service, is an extremely useful way to show someone you’re serious. You paid for the chance to correspond with that person, and he knows that, so he’ll pay attention. If not – no harms done, you don’t pay…

    Since I am not from the US, I can tell first hand that numerous business deals and contacts were initiated via LinkedIn with US based partners. I developed a strategy that works very well. For example, I got into discussion with more than 4 former (yet still active business man) CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I got 1 deal and 4 on-going discussions with very viable partners. I found 3 employees, and counting…

    Facebook is a waste of time. I get so many request to “be my friend”, something I don’t have to put up with on LinkedIn. Many are there for dating, and the business goes out the door. Though the first one to invite me to Facebook was a VC, I still couldn’t find myself to be comfortable to both find and approach someone for business purposes. Also, the system is not built this way, and highlight things that have nothing to do with business – personal photos , “wall”, bites, etc.

    Would love to tell more – as I truly believe we need more of the LinkedIn’s of the world, and less Facebooks…

  3. I agree with Ben Jerry — the key factor that attracted me to LinkedIn is that it’s ruthlessly all-business. You can’t recommend somebody just because you’re best buds. You have to have a business relationship, and you have to explicitly define what that relationship was.

    I’m still relatively new to LinkedIn, but I’ve been a little frustrated with the difficulty of making a connection to a “target” through your own network. That appears to be the draw, but of course, they can’t let you do that too much or too easily, or you have little incentive to use their fee-based services.

    Ignoring the problems of making new contacts, I also find it difficult to convey to my “close” prospective network contacts that LinkedIn is truly business-oriented. Facebook is just another MySpace, in my opinion, and in the opinions of practically everyone else I know. And because of that, I ignored the first two LinkedIn requests I got over a period of about six months. Then I started seeing it mentioned in the various VC and investment blogs and gave it a shot. It still took awhile before the lightbulb went on — but then I merely became “that guy” who started spamming his friends with MySpace-sounding LinkedIn invites. However, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s potentially an incredible tool, so I went to the extra effort of sending another round of e-mails explaining what it was. This worked — a lot of otherwise reluctant contacts gave it a shot — but now I’m stuck waiting for their lightbulbs to go on and for them to spam their contacts.

    MySpace and Facebook have made LinkedIn a very difficult thing to sell to legitimate contacts.

    But above all else, the best part about LinkedIn is that if somebody’s name is there, you can assume they’re interested in serious business contacts. Yes the spam potential is probably still significant, but it’s clearly an “opt-in” system, which goes a long way towards reducing the annoyance factor of an unsolicited contact.

    I do think LinkedIn has a lot of work ahead of them, though. They need to do a better job of communicating what they are and how to use the service. They need to keep thinking about how to make it more useful to LinkedIn users — I can’t shake the feeling that it’s ALMOST there, but not quite…

  4. I think there is a 3rd entrant in this race who possibly has the best formula for a “business oriented” social network, Plaxo.

    Not the old, annoying “want a signature like this?” Plaxo, but the new “I’m a very useful sync utility for keeping contact info current across platforms, and by the way I have all the same features as LinkedIn or Facebook” Plaxo. It’s really pretty cool.

    Matt, totally agree with the premise of this post. LinkedIn, mildly useful but always feel like I am intruding when its opportunity to be REALLY useful arises. Facebook just doesn’t work on the business side, most executives I know are not concerned that I am “on an airplane” right now.


  5. Matt,

    I agree with Ben above. The facebooks and myspaces of the world seem to be for hooking up with lost friends from high school or college and then getting flooded with their not so useful network of buddies.

    Here is what I like about LinkedIn: By building my own network, I am able to reach out to their contacts. For instance, I am connected to Ben Kuo of SoCal Tech. He doesn’t even share his connections, but when I post a question to my network, all his contacts see it. I have had a couple of great responses to my questions from key technology players in southern california because of this.

    In fact I think the question and answer aspect of LinkedIn is one of the best features of any social network out there. Matt, you could answer questions there that may actually help you identify people seeking your services (or at least your expertise – which will help build more relationships). Additionally many of the questions are actually non-invasive feelers anyway. So if you were targeting something, ask a question and others may jump to help in a way that would work better than directly asking someone to “do you a favor”.


  6. I think something is missing in these analyses of LinkedIn. I’ve been in for about three years, and did so not to make a bunch of connections, but to provide a good Google profile. Since I’m an independent consultant, I know that prospects almost always look me up on Google after hearing about me. So I want them to like what they see. With LinkedIn, you can provide a very good professional “face” via Google to prospects and clients. I also find it fascinating to see who people “know” — i.e. how strategic are they about it.

    I agree on the spamming aspect however, and have never been a fan of trying to make hundreds or thousands of LinkedIn connections. That’s like blindly sending resumes to every business in town. I don’t think too many people are going to take you seriously if they receive an invitation from someone who’s spread that thin.

    Since you’re judged today by who you know, it doesn’t help much if you pretend to know everybody. It’s about quality, not volume.

  7. The fad of social networks will be here to stay for a long time as they perform a function of digital aggregation that can be shared across groups of people quickly and efficiently.
    The question to ask is whether a user wants to be confronted with applications and gimmicks to keep your attention within the walled garden, your online leisure time if you will, or whether they want to assimulate up to date info rapidly and then move on to the next task.
    Younger generations have time on their hands (they have no concept of finality) whereas older generations have other priorities.
    Facebook works for younger people, linkedin works for those who have to rely on the concept of having new contacts to further their business career. Neither is essential.
    As a by the by, what happens when News Corp combines linkedin (if they buy) with myspace?

  8. Matt —
    In my opinion, the two sites have different value propositions along two dimensions — (1) nature of the network (professional vs. social) and (2) nature of communication within that network (meeting people vs. staying in touch). This leads to different uses and best practices for both sites.

    First, on the nature of the network, LinkedIn is clearly professional and Facebook is clearly more social. Although Facebook is trying to bridge the gap, I think the gap exists and is pretty wide. Second, Facebook is clearly more about keeping in touch and reconnecting with existing friends, rather than making new ones. By contrast, the site that started the wave of social networks (Friendster) was actually more about meeting new people. LinkedIn is definitely more about “meeting new people” ( i.e., leveraging your business network), but is getting good at keeping people informed about each other’s whereabouts, and in this sense, keeping people in touch.

    With regards to best practices, I would consider two things: (1) who you add (or don’t add) to the network and (2) how you use the network, and these, for me, are directly in line with my thoughts above. I would want my Facebook network to be more social (so would shy away from adding strictly professional contacts), but would be fine with adding friends to my LinkedIn network as well. In terms of using the network, I would have different approaches. For Facebook, I would manage viewership to moderate what people can/can’t see (for a few selective cases) and use it to stay in touch with people — update status, partake in wall posts, maybe even add some applications selectively. For LinkedIn, I would add my business contacts, keep my status updated, but recommend/communicate with people selectively to create stronger impact from those conversations.

    Enjoyed the discussion and hope this helps!

  9. I can speak about Facebook, I have not seen much reason to use it or Twitter because I have not adopted the culture of knowing what my friends are doing at this very moment. It’s not that I am not curious, but it’s also not terribly important to me.

    Linked-In is an excellent resource. I can see what my former business contacts and colleagues are doing — not at this exact moment, but job-wise.

    When I am interviewing a job candidate, I can check who I know who knows the candidate — the direct connection between me and the candidate — and ask these people for character and professional opinions on the candidate. The old model of “references available on request” is invalidated by Linked-In. Every one of my direct links is my reference. That’s what I tell people and that’s how I treat it.

    And Linked-In is a valuable reference when investigating a company. The usual corporate website will show the executives and the board. But seeing who are the senior technical people at the company and where they came from often gives important clues to the nature of the company’s business and technological direction.

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