I think it’s time to make a call on something: LinkedIn isn’t necessary anymore. Why? You don’t need it. I don’t have anything against LinkedIn, I just don’t think it’s needed anymore, and I’m even wondering if it ever was. I wasn’t convinced of this until recently, but I have had so many conversations with professionals who say the same thing. To the person they all say, “I signed up for LinkedIn but never use it. It was just something I felt like I needed to do.” Personally, I fall into that category as well and I think I know why.
A Little Social Networking History
LinkedIn was created as a social network for business professionals. It emerged as MySpace was on the way down and Facebook was on the way up. Most professionals weren’t about to get into the spammy world of MySpace, and Facebook was just graduating from being a social network for students. LinkedIn filled the gap. It was poised to be the ultimate social network for professionals and it would have worked, except a funny thing happened. Actually two things happened: Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook quickly grew out of the student-only status and emerged as the definitive network to find or connect with just about everyone. Twitter provided another level of connection and conversation for the people who didn’t want their coworkers accessing pictures of their vacation or seeing status updates from the New Kids on the Block reunion tour.
Facebook emerged as the social network instead of just a social network and Twitter allows broad connections without as much self revelation if a person so chooses. Facebook and Twitter combined are the double punch in LinkedIn’s stomach and together they undermine everything LinkedIn could have hoped to become.
LinkedIn Gets Left Out
LinkedIn says it has three purposes:
- To let you connect with past and present colleagues,
- To find answers to your questions,
- To “discover inside connections when you’re looking for a job or new business opportunity.”
As you look at the three purposes, you can see that Facebook pretty well has number one covered. There’s a reason Facebook is now twice the size of MySpace worldwide. The bottom line on connection is that if someone wants to be connected, they’re on Facebook.
Twitter is pretty good at connections, but it’s lesser known quality is information. Many people are just now waking up to the fact that Twitter is the first place where news breaks. Not convinced? Just ask U.S. Airways. Twitter breaks news, makes news, and with a few good friends, can get you speedy answers to your questions. It’s pretty amazing.
That leaves us with item number three: the “inside connections” benefit of LinkedIn. To some degree you can see this with Facebook and enough observation in Twitter. LinkedIn beats them both in the ability to display this information. What this doesn’t take into account, however, is the human factor. The idea of asking a friend of a friend for a favor (let alone a job) is a little uncomfortable for everyone. Sure, there are people who don’t mind it, but the average person is pretty protective of their relational equity, and you generally don’t want to spend it just because Mike from middle school saw you know someone who knows someone who he wants to meet. Just because you can see who your friends are connected to doesn’t mean they want to facilitate a forced interaction. They know their own reputation is on the line too. This was always LinkedIn’s biggest promise and weakest point. No amount of technology can overcome social etiquette and relational capital.
The bottom line is that LinkedIn isn’t necessary anymore. Everyone you’re going to want to connect with is on Facebook or Twitter (or both) and unless LinkedIn has something more to provide, I don’t know why you would need to use it.
NOTE/IRONY: As I was about to post, I considered killing my LinkedIn profile altogether, but then I realized I probably shouldn’t. It turns out my LinkdedIn profile is the fourth entry on a Google search for my name. Since I’m not a fan of killing things off when Google’s indexed them I decided to leave it up. Guess LinkedIn has a little benefit after all.