What Does LinkedIn have to do with Facebook?

Recently I joined the ranks of those who Twitter. It was a gradual decision, spurred by the increasingly relevant bits of information I got from friends via Facebook. Facebook was the same sort of “well, I ought to try it” decision last summer. The key here is that the meme, or at least the techmeme for those who microblog, has moved away from LinkedIn. Or has it?

I use LinkedIn, as many of my friends do, to maintain a casual resume and link point for “weak ties”. Yet there was little reason to join Linkedin several years and months ago besides the goal of racking up “connections”. After reaching 500+, people would say “boy, you’re well connected” but I wasn’t really sure if I could use that platform to answer questions I had or to gather new information in interesting and powerful ways.

LinkedIn attempted to address this gap last summer when it added Groups, a way to spontaneously link up your RL buddies and your Social/Work friends, yet it doesn’t have the same spontaneity and “it” factor as does Facebook or Twitter. LinkedIn is not easy enough to use today because it’s difficult to know how to use it when you’re not explicitly looking for a job.

Network with friends? I can do that through a million other services. Find someone in another company who knows a specific skill? Now we’re getting closer, but it’s hard to tell who is an expert and who just put “Six Sigma Black Belt” on their profile to show up in a keyword search.

So what’s a work-focused social network to do? I have a few ideas:

  1. embrace the other services. Instead of offering “plug-in” apps, use the data feeds from the other services as part of a multi-layered view into a candidate
  2. Competency maps. Everybody hates doing this, so if you can combine the automatic (or semi automatic through tagging) building of competencies along with the “crowd-sourced” ratings that make Digg etc. popular, you can find out who’s the Six Sigma Black Belt that everyone seems to hire around here.
  3. make it easier for members of the service to advertise these services, while striking a balance between those would would spam each other and those who have verifiable services

Solve this problem, and you have not only a social network that blends the way that people communicate with the way that they work, but also a blender that creates new opportunities to find talent and create opportunities simultaneously. Add to that some services that allow these incubators to access business services and monetize their ideas and LinkedIn might have a model that signs people up for a nominal fee, and then pays them back as they create value.

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