I use Facebook a lot (I do work at a company building games on the Facebook platform, after all). I also use LinkedIn a lot as well. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the two services. This is not a “will Facebook kill LinkedIn” type of post – I don’t think that’s a question that can be easily answered. What’s been nagging me of late, though, is that it doesn’t feel to me that LinkedIn is maximizing the full opportunity in front of them. Below are some observations and questions based on my usage patterns and supported 100% by anecdote and opinion.
Does LinkedIn want to be a part of my daily life? Facebook clearly does – I’ve been on Facebook for what feels like a really long time. As a user, it seems to me that Facebook is very focused on being a part of your daily life – they want to give you a reason to come back to Facebook at least once a day. First it was simply connecting with your friends. Then it was photos and status updates. Now it’s the ability to import other things you’re doing across the web. They’re becoming an engagement vortex and it’s working.
LinkedIn doesn’t appear to have the same aspirations for the average LinkedIn user. Sure, if you’re a recruiter or job seeker, you have a reason to check in every day. I imagine recruiters would want to be on the service every day, looking for new people to fill openings and building their presence on the service. I also imagine job seekers use it regularly to get a sense for who’s hiring and what opportunities might exist for them. But for the general user who is not actively looking for a new job or trying to fill a position, there isn’t a strong reason / need to log in every day.
I don’t know if this is a problem. But it’s interesting to me that status updates are a virtuous / vicious cycle (depending on how you look at it). I believe people publish status updates to let the world know what they’re doing and to hopefully generate a response of some sort. However, if you publish your status update in a place where others won’t see it, you don’t get the feedback. So, if you have daily engagement, status updates are a natural thing to offer users – it’s a cheap way to inject more content and dynamism into the system and it gives people more things to discuss. On the flip side, I don’t think you can offer status updates as a means to drive dynamism – people will update their status where others are.
Why isn’t the LinkedIn activity feed filtered or curated?? I had high hopes for the RSS feed that LinkedIn offers. It’s a passive way to find out about what people are doing without visiting the site. However, the current RSS feed is an unfiltered data dump – I get just about every new connection (person X is now connected to person Y) along with job changes, promotions, etc. Getting all of the connection notifications is really noisy – I’d rather not get all of those. One thing I’ve learned from using Facebook, though, is that there is tremendous value in filtering the feed. LinkedIn could do that. I am VERY interested in hearing about my friends who change jobs, get promoted, become advisors at other companies, or otherwise have noteworthy developments to share. Right now I feel like that’s lost in the noise – it feels to me that there’s an opportunity to streamline that feed (whether it’s delivered via RSS, email, or whatever) to make it more of a highlight real than a firehose delivery of activity within my network.
Why isn’t the “Events” feature more vibrant? I’m actively involved in organizing events. A lot of the people who attend the events I organize are on LinkedIn and the audience from which I draw is largely business people. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the “Events” feature in LinkedIn feels less vibrant. For example, marketing events on Facebook, even business events, is actually pretty effective when done correctly. You can get a good amount of uptake and response and finding new potential attendees is fairly inexpensive and easy. With all of those business people on LinkedIn and the importance of face-to-face networking to build business relationships, I would have expected LinkedIn to be more of a force in promoting events and helping event organizers find and reach potential attendees.
Is the LinkedIn API the best way to get more engagement with the underlying data stored in LinkedIn? When I saw the blog post about the LinkedIn API becoming more open, it immediately struck me as a good idea. Instead of finding more ways to get people to visit the core site, why not make the vast store of data and information they have available accessible to other applications and services that businesspeople do use every day. It certainly reinforces the value of the data stored in LinkedIn and might enable developers to create some new applications that sit on top of the data and do cool things with it. I have high hopes for their new developer program and what it could mean for business applications. Having all of those applications live within in LinkedIn is probably less interesting than taking that data to places where it isn’t accessible today.
What do you think? How do you use LinkedIn? How would you like to use it? Comments are welcome below.