LinkedIn and Facebook on collision course?

I signed up for LinkedIn in mid-2003, and since then I have not been very active on the service other than accepting invites as they came to my inbox.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of requests from friends and colleagues and interestingly most of them are not from the technology industry.  It is clear to me with over 10mm users worldwide that LinkedIn has crossed the proverbial chasm.  The company has clearly done a great job creating a strong revenue model around social networking and leveraging the technology industry to get started, but as I see more and more mainstream users join the service I wonder how big it can get and how it will play against the other players in the space.  LinkedIn has repeatedly stated that it believes people will have two profiles, one professional that is maintained on LinkedIn and one personal which is maintained on MySpace or Facebook.  I don’t doubt that at this time, but I must admit that while Facebook has mostly been about friends and personal relationships, I have been surprised at the number of professional and business contacts wanting to add me as a friend on Facebook ever since it opened up its platform.   It will be interesting to see how these two services grow, how the boundary between friend and professional contact continues to blur for the professional, and whether Facebook makes a concerted effort to enter into LinkedIn’s turf.  For example, why couldn’t I maintain one profile on Facebook and only share the professional information with those in that network and the personal with those in another?  Expanding that thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a metaservice where you only maintained one user profile and you could check off which details were fed into which different social networks.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

20 comments on “LinkedIn and Facebook on collision course?”

  1. I was about half way through college when Facebook became popular at my school and had a decent number of friends. Now that my group of friends has graduated I’d like to see more information about where they are working, what they are doing, and what skills they have learned, essentially what Linkedin provides.

    An easy way to transfer information from Facebook to Linkedin, or vice versa, would be great. I’ve noticed that Facebook users have been more hesitant to start using Linkedin because they want to know what they would do on LInkedin. Reducing the time it takes to create and maintain a professional profile, on either Linked or Facebook, would be great for early/mid twenty somethings.

  2. Ed-

    Just as most people have a work email and a personal email (at a minimum). There is the same church & state separation for people b/w hyper-social (facebook/myspace) and business-based networking.

    Young people today love to have multiple accounts and pseudonyms to hide behind in the virtual world; many kids I know have 2 or more myspace accounts and bunches of other social accounts.

    Additionally people embrace usernames rather than real names because they enjoy the ability to hide from others who do not know their username identity.

    Now, most people are not at this extreme, but I believe the system you are considering – the one profile for social and business really only appeals to the other extreme. those that do not embrace social networks for the professionally inappropriate environments they can be.

    I would not want to aggregate my facebook and linked in accounts, because I don’t think pictures of me in a funny hat or pictures of my pet is appropriate for linked-in type networking.

    Even though potential professional contacts can search for me on facebook, it is an extra step; and more importantly it is “out-of-work-hours”. If i am silly on my facebook it is appropriate, since it is my space. If im silly on an aggregating linked-in/facebook it is a bit less cute.

    These roads shouldnt and won’t comfortably cross.

    HOWEVER, i think a managementtool for the end-user to edit and manage their multiple social accounts would be helpful.

    My 2cents,

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  4. You wrote: “… wouldn’t it be great if there was a metaservice where you only maintained one user profile and you could check off which details were fed into which different social networks.”

    I think the crux of the issue is the “purpose” of such networks. I think “Perry’s” comment that, “many kids I know have 2 or more myspace accounts and bunches of other social accounts,” is at cross-purposes with the intention of LinkedIn.

    The fundamental assumption in LinkedIn is that you are who you say you are. I have no experience with Facebook but with MySpace, where there is much pseudonymous activity, young people (and old) are constructing and promoting a view of themselves that may or may not be in line with reality. (To be sure, there are people misrepresenting themselves on LinkedIn, but with references and work histories involved, perhaps there is too much at stake for that kind of widespread abuse.)

    As far as creating a “meta-profile” that can be exported to various web apps? I could see the value of that if a person’s life was largely represented by their online activity. However, most of us live out our lives in a bricks and mortar world, and not via an avatar.

  5. A Meta service will fall apart because an individual won’t be able to keep multiple profiles linked by one real world name from being linked together. It would work for anonymous profiles, but the market for enabling the multiple personality disorder people to keep their lives straight is too small.

    I think people will gravitate to one or the other in general as it is today. Market size isn’t going to be as important as monetization though, which will reflect the same statistics of society in general. Most people do not have skill sets that require constant updating. People who earn more money do though, which creates a financial incentive to participate. Professional networking will be much smaller, and more lucrative than personal networking per user. They are entirely different businesses. LinkedIn charges to communicate and it frequently worth paying since you’re communicating/initiating a financial transaction. Do you think Facebook can charge for sending some a wink?

    I think using the net to reinforce offline friendships will be a bigger deal than discovering online only friends, as a market size. I also think that managing a professional reputation is going to be a really significant space because people have always been concerned about their careers. If you can help them to make more money, learn more and professionally network, that will be a compelling reason for someone to spend time consuming and contributing.

    I also don’t think that Facebook will be able to change it’s demeanor too much. I’d bet your recent experience is an anomaly driven by people who wonder about this stuff. As people grow older, I bet they become kind of like their parents and start to feel that ‘I should be on LinkedIn now that I have a job and I’m grown up’. The place you are will say something about you, like what’s after the @ sign in your e-mail address. Kids grow up to only be a little different than their parents, so in 10 years things will only be a little different.

  6. Ed,
    While LinkedIn did indeed become useful about 6 months ago, Facebook could indeed overrun it. A number of bleeding-edge business associates haved joined Facebook (after API press recently). If my network is on Facebook, that’s where I will be.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love LinkedIn and have had great succcess with it, but it’s just a matter of where my network is. I aligned with them, not any vendor

  7. ed, I have been a LinkedIn (free) user for several years, just started in with FBook to communicate with my college-bound daughter and to see what the service has for older folks. I have found that on LI I get lots of link requests from people I barely know. When I uploaded my contacts to FB, these people questioned who the heck I was to “friend” them — so perhaps there is a higher hurdle for FB for “friendship” vs. maintaining a professional identity? Hmm.

  8. always, interesting post. For me, I’m careful, almost critical of who I have in my professional network. I politely decline invitations until I get to know someone. Therefore everyone in my network knows that my connections are solid..not just a “number of connections” contest. My facebook network?…they are friends, but not all trusted to show up on time and deliver, but good pickup hoop games, etc. I keep ’em separate and I think most will.

  9. Ed, great series of comments. See my post about some thoughts that I have about the two services — especially on the differences between what people think of as “friends” or “links” — David

  10. Great reading and would like to ask for your help. We are seeking user feedback for a venture called MyPage. After reading the replies, I wanted to approach this group first. We have been developing a system called MyPage, beta at and looking for input and feedback. We will have phase 1 completed by end of next week and phase 2 will really stand out with integrated IM’s skype, gtalk, mapping, notifications, etc.. Please, if you have the time and interest, send us your feedback on how we can improve the offering, any tools/tricks/features you might want or any recommendations. Thanks alot for your time.



  11. Ed- great post, I have been having exactly this argument with people recently. I have used Linkedin since the early days, and am now facebooking (post APIs etc). There are clearly link/friend collectors on both networks. I am definitely in the camp that says linkedin should be more exclusive, and am trying to weed linkedin (inevitable after a few years of use, both people you interacted with briefly, and people who you linked with early on when it was the thing to do, only to discover you had signed on with a 5000 link professional networker you didn’t know).

    The challenge with the dual identity idea is that you do need some cross referencing for some things, but absolutely not for others. My facebook entry is as private as possible at the moment, as I get an idea of how it gets used.

    ps- are we related? 😉

  12. What would it take for you to add the banner to your blog to support charity? I have added it to my own and would love to see other bloggers amplify the need to stomp out poverty.

    If the activism irritates you then I understand…

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  13. Ed, I just created a Facebook profile a week ago and have been trying to reconcile my three worlds – blogging, LinkedIn and Facebook. As a 40+ professional starting up on Facebook, I’m pretty comfortable with what I’m sharing if the information is viewed in either professional or personal contexts. I would also like to see a melding of the worlds, where my LinkedIn data could be seamlessly exported and managed in Facebook. I don’t feel I need a place where I can be zany idiot online; I’m perfectly happy doing that offline. So I’m not concerned with my own worlds colliding, but I can understand how others might. But wouldn’t it be great if we could use the Facebook platform however we liked, either as a personal communication tool, a professional networking platform or a synthesis of the two? I don’t think these things need to be mutually exclusive – give the people what they want.

  14. Re “wouldn’t it be great if there was a metaservice where you only maintained one user profile and you could check off which details were fed into which different social networks” the closest I have seen is (I am not affiliated with them)

  15. My daughter thinks MEEBO is the greatest thing available on the internet. Why not MEEBO for personal presence sites?

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