Tuesday, June 15, 2010

LinkedIn as Facebook for the Business World

(note, this post was cross-posted on It's All About Revenue last week)

I've long been a bit skeptical about the use of Facebook for sharing business content. It is a great medium for personal sharing, and works well when businesses hit on the rare, but brilliant creative campaigns that go viral because they are cute, funny, or whimsical. However, for content like whitepapers, it just does not work.

I'm currently running an experiment to see if B2B content is "likeable" on Facebook, and while I have not compiled the data yet, the answers are looking bleak.

However, interesting developments continue at LinkedIn, with their recent promotion of a sharing bookmarklet. The technology is really simple:

1) Drag the bookmarklet to your browser toolbar:

2) Click it to share any page you are on:

3) Your status is updated with that link:

But the implications are more interesting. By doubling their investment in the status update as a communication metaphor that Twitter and Facebook have leveraged with great success, LinkedIn seems to be attempting to become a similar communications hub for the business world.

Whether they will be successful in becoming "Facebook for the business world" is unclear, but there are a few factors in their favour, and a few against worth considering:

3 Factors working in LinkedIn's favour:
- their presence as the defacto network of business connections gets them over the hurdle of network adoption quickly

- their deeper knowledge of business profiles means that they can (theoretically) do a much better job of understanding influence networks than alternatives

- the gulf between our social selves and our business selves is probably implanted deep in the brain stem, and may be impossible for Facebook to overcome as an inherently "social" ecosystem

3 Factors working against them:
- they are late to the party when it comes to building a robust developer ecosystem to extend and innovate on the core

- their application usage scenario feels a lot more like a CRM system (looking up contact and company details) than a communication platform like Twitter or Facebook. Making this shift will be difficult

- Each network has an implied "hurdle" of becoming connected (Twitter is very low, for example). LinkedIn has historically been a relatively "high" hurdle, which doesn't lead to broad sharing of ideas through many loose connections

What's your bet? Will LinkedIn succeed with this initiative and become Facebook for the business world?
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
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