LinkedIn (and Facebook and Twitter): What’s the Dif?

These days it seems everyone is talking about Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. Some people are on one, but not others. Some are on none, and are befuddled.  “Even if I think it’s a good idea to use Social Networking for our work, which should we use? Should we be on all of them? And really, what is all this and what do we have to do to be “on” these things?”

There are many good sites and blog posts for explaining the basics of how to use Social Media, especially in the Community Benefit world.  Here is just one, but if you type “Social Media” or “Social Networking” and “Nonprofits” into Google, you will find a lot to review.  (I recommend John Haydon’s blog as one that teaches the basics of Social Networking to Community Organizations at a level that is simultaneously 101 Level and not condescending – a great gift!)

Being a teacher at heart, though, I can’t help but want to explain the differences between all these places – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  And being a storyteller, my explanations lean towards analogies. So herewith, my small attempt to explain the differences between these three major social networking systems, including pros and cons of each. Please pitch in and share your own observations – anything that will help folks see the value in all these various social networking tools. Because they are all indeed valuable in their own ways.

To not make this post longer than anyone could humanly want to read, I will break this into chunks for the next few days. Today, let’s start with LinkedIn.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is all business. When I first started to dive into all three of these social networks, I posed the question on LinkedIn: What’s the difference between them all? And repeatedly folks told me, “LinkedIn is where I go to connect for business ONLY.”

Having participated at LinkedIn for a while now, the mood at LinkedIn reminds me of a Chamber of Commerce mixer. Folks are on LinkedIn because they want to find others with whom to do business. They might be looking for a job, or for clients or customers, but LinkedIn is where you go to network for business. The mood, like a Chamber mixer, is the self-promotional side of the business world.

As for what LinkedIn has to offer, you can post as extensive a personal vitae as you would like as part of your profile, complete with photo.  You can ask questions or start a discussion or post a news item others might find interesting.  And most importantly, you can search the site to identify people who work in a particular industry, to contact them directly, all through LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s Value:
• Great connections. I can’t stress that enough. Savvy business folks from every field imaginable are on LinkedIn
• LinkedIn’s professional profiles give you a ton of information about someone, a great way to do research on folks you may want to connect with
• A sincere willingness on the part of those who are on LinkedIn to share what they know when you have a question
• And for those who draw strong distinctions between “business” and “pleasure,” you will feel most comfortable at LinkedIn, as it is really almost entirely “all business.”

LinkedIn’s Downside:
• Personally, I find LinkedIn’s platform cumbersome at best, and impossible to navigate / downright frustrating at worst.
• Because everyone is at LinkedIn for one purpose only – to do business – many people (myself included) find LinkedIn a bit too self-promotional, with everyone trying to sell themselves, all the time. If you generally feel comfortable and “in your element” at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, however, you will be right at home at LinkedIn.
• Lastly, I feel like Community Benefit Organizations are an afterthought at LinkedIn. Much like we often feel at a Chamber mixer, those of us whose lives are not dedicated to making money / selling a product or service are really attending an event that is meant for someone else.  While the Chamber / LinkedIn is inviting us to be there, it’s not really aimed at our needs and our ways of working together. That doesn’t mean it is not a good place to find people – it is absolutely great for that. It just has a different sort of “feel” than many Community Benefit Leaders are used to.

If anyone has used LinkedIn a lot and has different ways of explaining just what it is, what it feels like, what someone can expect – especially if you disagree with my assessment – please post in the comments. I would love this to be a resource for folks!

In the second post in this series, you’ll find info about Twitter (where I have been spending a lot of my time lately). That link is here. And then on Friday, we’ll wrap up with Facebook.

In the meantime, if you are not already linked to me, just click the buttons on the right of this page, and let’s connect in the Social Media world!

15 Responses to LinkedIn (and Facebook and Twitter): What’s the Dif?

  1. Hildy,

    LinkedIn is essentially a way to see who knows who, so that you can leverage existing business relationships.

    Another way to use LinkedIn that I’ve found useful is the Ask Questions section. Here are two effective ways to use this:

    1 – Answer Questions: Create an RSS feed for questions within a particular subject matter. As LinkedIn users post questions within your domain of expertise, you can quickly answer these and be useful. Usefulness is a key success factor in social media. The more substantive your answer is, the more likely folks will want to connect with you.

    2 – Ask Questions: Find qualified “prospects” by asking questions that generate a lot of answers. This takes some thought and creativity. For example, you could ask: “What are the pain that non-profits find with using LinkedIn? And why aren’t they using it more?” The more provocative and simple your question, the more chances you have of people answering it.

    Great post!

    John

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom here, John!

    I again recommend John’s blog BOTH for those who understand Social Media and want insight into how to use it in the Community Benefit world, AND for those who are total newbies and want to figure it all out. As you can tell, John is very accessible, and also a really nice guy!
    Hildy

  3. Hi Hildy,

    Haven’t used Twitter so I look forward to your thoughts on that tomorrow.

    As for LinkedIn: it has helped both as a way of staying connected to former business colleagues, and as a tool for finding help. Example: I needed a very specialized type of help to relocate a family from Africa to the U.S. Put out a query for help on LinkedIn, and received several solid leads and offers to help. Of course they were promoting their own businesses, but I ended up using a really wonderful travel agent who got this complicated job done, and then some. He ended up becoming a good friend. (Arthur Wright – a heavy user of LinkedIn and a great connector of people.)

    Like Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in The Tipping Point, when you find someone who is a real “connector” like some are on LinkedIn, the results can multiply exponentially.

  4. Hildy –

    I agree this is a very helpful column on Social Media – thanks for writing it. New options are coming so quickly that it does seem challenging for busy practitioners (who may not be particularly technologically savvy) to keep up. I was recently asked to write a guest column for another colleague who blogs on being a small business owner. I wrote on Social Media and Time Management. It can be found here if others might find it of interest: http://www.lifeonavenuez.com/2009/01/22/social-media-20-time-management-5-important-considerations-jump/

    Bonnie

  5. I’m members of all three. I use Twitter the most, LinkedIn second most, and Facebook least.

    LinkedIn does include folks from many different industries, but it extremely tech heavy. Tech is only part of my work; my other “job” is in aviation and LinkedIn is weak there. Of course, it’ll get stronger as we spread the word and try to pull our work associates into it. But I agree with you about the interface being difficult to use and navigate. And I don’t see the folks at LinkedIn actively trying to build the service to make it better or more useful.

    One thing I have found problematic at linked in is what I call “group spam.” People join groups, then use the “discussion” areas to place obvious advertisements for products or services they’re involved with. If you’re as intolerant of spam as I am, this makes groups a waste of time and reduces LinkedIn’s true social networking value.

    I should also mention here that I have never found any work through LinkedIn and don’t know anyone else who has.

    If I may offer another link for thoughts on LinkedIn, I wrote a two-part blog post about networking. The second part deals with LinkedIn: http://www.marialanger.com/2007/08/24/networking-part-ii-how-linkedin-fits-in/

  6. Maria:
    Thanks for your thoughts. I of course think they are brilliant, as I agree with you!
    🙂

    I know there are folks who love LinkedIn – I will try to encourage one of them to speak up, as I know she has gotten work there. She can perhaps share how she’s done it.

    As for me, I’ve found it very useful for getting the word out about stuff, but as John noted above, one has to spend a lot of time figuring out how to craft the message to make it effective. FB and Twitter I find to be more friendly in that regard.

    Hildy

  7. Hildy – Thanks for the 3 excellent summaries on social media. One challenge I would like to see explored is how employers are dealing with these new mediums and the employee. Because they are seen as just “social” and not of any business value, many employers block these sites from employee use. That is an issue where I work. But, more and more, there can be real business value (networking, etc.) using these site. But many employers are fearful there will be staff abuse and wasteing company time. Will be interesting to see as these sites grow in value, just how business is going to navigate their use at work.

  8. I, too, am a member of all three sites and am learning more about each via articles such as this. I agree with your assessment of LinkedIn…but add that, as a professional in any field, I think each individual must recognize the need to “identify” yourself in your field. Once done, though, I haven’t found that LinedIn is excessively self-serving…at least in those areas in which I’ve been working; i.e., publishing, books, etc.

    I look forward to your followup entries!

  9. I think it’s perspective on LinkedIn. I didn’t see it as a place to build a “cause” presence. I saw it as a place to begin to engage and cultivate potential boomer volunteers, community partnerships and advisors who are professionals in industries relevant to projects. Many are people I probably wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity to mix/mingle/rub elbows with offline, so LinkedIn becomes a Chamber mixer of sorts and my approaches to new connections or groups are made from a business to business perspective: how my “business” can benefit their business.

  10. While linkedIn can be used for virtual introductions and leveraging to join resources otherwise unavailable I think facebook speaks volume about who you really are. If your curious about linkedin you should read Jason Alba’s book “I’m on LinkedIn , now what”. http://bit.ly/10Ol6

  11. Hildy,

    Your summary is excellent. I am still learning the myriad of ways LinkedIn can be used for networking.

    Just recently, I was contacted by a nonprofit executive with whom I am connected on LinkedIn. She is interested in an international marketing position with a business and found, on LinkedIn, that I am the only person in her network connected to someone in management at that business. She asked if I would be willing to put in a word for her so that her resume would at least get a review. Whether or not she gets the job is up to others to work out, but I was able to make a contact to assure her qualifications would be reviewed by someone at the top.

    Mari

  12. Mari:
    It will be very cool if she gets the job, but cool enough that this provided a lead she might not have had. Thanks for a great example!
    HG

  13. Yes, LinkedIn is all business, without the water cooler talk that you need to go through at work and at those mixers, so it’s a respite in many ways — straight to business or growing your professional knowledge and contacts. Those who post personal items on it can at best, irritate those who are on it for “all business” and at worst, present themselves as “old school” folks who just don’t get the difference between LinkedIn, FB, and Twitter. And for the record, I’ve found jobs and consulting gigs on LI, friends and dates on FB. It’s all in understanding how to use the sites, which has to do with remaining relevant and in spirit with the culture of each service.