My friend Jeff Pulver authored a tasty piece of link-bait this morning in the form of this BusinessWeek piece titled Confessions of a LinkedIn Drop-Out. It generated some predictable flames, like this guy who claims that Jeff doesn't understand Facebook or LinkedIn. For me, though, it rings true.
A couple of observations:
- Business is social. In business we have meetings, lunches, dinners, events, strong relationships, weaker relationships, friendships, and rivalries. We seek relationsips, and we seek to escape relationships. The only thing that's different about business socializing versus personal socialization is the motivation for doing so.
- Relationships are always personal. Regardless of whether we want to do business, hang out, or procreate, relationships are always forged one to one. The argument that we have separate business and personal personas is bogus. Long ago I merged my address book into one big unified entity. It was easier to maintain that way, and more accurately reflected my world.
Like Jeff, I find myself spending more and more time in Facebook, and less on LinkedIn. The social pleasantries that are the grease which makes business work are absent from LinkedIn, but present in Facebook. For example, I've met business people who share my interest in diving, my passion for photography, and my love of food and wine through Facebook. We now have common interests to share when the business conversation runs dry. When I've updated Facebook status to say that I'm working on a specific problem, I've had numerous emails from people in my network offering solutions. It's the most efficient way I know to find an answer to a question. And when I've needed to contact specific people at specific companies, I've just popped off a Facebook note… no referral required.
For me, Facebook represents a very direct and very twenty-first century way of doing business. If you need to reach a particular individual, cold call them. Facebook makes it easy. By contrast, LinkedIn is an encapsulation of the old-boy's network, and the class system perpetuated by Ivy League colleges. It's not about doing business, but rather about who you know. Harsh criticism, perhaps, but it feels accurate to me.
And because Facebook blends social and business together in such an untidy way, it serves my needs incredibly well. Let's face it — at the age of 43, I've met more people in my life than any college student. And as I get older it's getting harder and harder to remember them all. The challenge of remembering them all is made easy by Facebook because it's all about staying in touch, and doing things with people, rather than just who you know.
So, I'm gradually uploading all of my contacts to Facebook (about a third done now) and inviting everyone I know to join. It works for me, because at the end of the day, business is social.