After reading CIO Publisher Emeritus Gary Beach’s recent column proclaiming that CIOs and older members of the business community should join him on LinkedIn and avoid Facebook, I understood his reasoning very well. Not too long ago, I expressed similar dismay over how poorly the majority of Facebook users utilized the fastest growing social network on the Web. To me, it seemed little more than a showcase for college kids wanting to demonstrate their prowess for alcohol consumption and flaunt who they may have landed in the bedroom. Many of the users who “friended” someone else would stalk their profiles with sick fascination. When I considered Facebook’s potential and tremendously powerful infrastructure, it seemed like such a waste.
So I fooled around with some of the other social networks for awhile. First, I dabbled in MySpace, which turned out to have a ton of users (even older ones) but lousy functionality. You couldn’t really design your home page and profile with the same ease as Facebook. It just didn’t look as pretty.
After discarding my MySpace account, I joined LinkedIn, whose 16 million professional users make it a very powerful tool as well. As Gary points out, it helps the user “connect with business colleagues and business friends.”
Yes, that’s true, but I also learned that’s about the extent of it.
LinkedIn is essentially an online resume, with very few helpful third-party applications to enrich the experience (though hopefully that will change slightly since they adopted the OpenSocial standard). When it comes to applications running on top of social networking home pages (also known as widgets), Facebook holds an undeniable edge and has been the hotbed of social networking innovation. Back in late May, it opened up its platform to third-party developers and has since added some 7,000 applications. Not all of the apps have been relevant to a business user (the vampires app comes to mind), but others have been extremely helpful and have shown to have great potential benefits for a business user.
I also examined some of the numbers provided by Facebook in their press section and it debunked some of my assumptions. Of the sites 55 million active users, more than half are from outside college and they claim fastest demographic as those being 25 and older.
As I result, I stopped fighting and joined, but did so only after making a promise to myself: I’d keep it classy. While I’ve revealed some personal information about myself, it’s nothing intimately personal. If you visit my Facebook page, you’ll see everyone from my boss’s boss, CIO Editor in Chief Abbie Lundberg, to my best friend from college (who happens to work for a large technology vendor). You’ll see sources I’ve used for my "consumer IT" stories as well as friends of mine in the media and PR communities.
I’m not saying ditch LinkedIn. In fact, I have a LinkedIn widget on my Facebook page that will take you to my resume. That’s what LinkedIn does best.
Instead, it behooves you to be members of both Facebook and LinkedIn. It just increases your opportunity to make meaningful connections in both your professional and personal lives, and the gray area between the two where we’re going to be spending a lot of our time in the future.
If you’re a CIO or IT manager, it’s worth your time because, if nothing else, your future workforce views Facebook as a staple in their daily lives. The other bonus: the more of you who join, the concerns Gary and I have about the delinquent uses of the social networking platform (drunk photos and the like) will begin to work themselves out because these people want to have jobs! If they know you’re watching, they might clean up their profiles to a more tasteful blend between the professional and personal.
That, at least, is my hope.
C.G. Lynch is a Staff Writer for CIO.com and CIO magazine. He covers Consumer IT and collaborative technologies.