Monday, September 08, 2008

Facebook: Who's Your Friend?

A few weeks ago I did some house cleaning. I looked over both my Facebook friends and Linked contacts and deleted many. Don't worry it wasn't personal, but while the deletions in Linkedin were relatively minor I reduced my Facebook friends by more than half. I am not completely sure I was brutal enough.

Most of those I deleted were also Linkedin contacts which is sort of the point. I am not so sure I want my business associates to know I was listening to The Sex Pistols yesterday or someone from high school noted some particularly debauched evening back in 1980 on my 'wall'. My brother might be tempted to say something even worse and as a consequence the whole mystique would be ruined. I jest somewhat.

I see two separate constellations of friends and business associates and it is not that they are always mutually exclusive but for me I believe that any overlap is an exception rather than the rule. Of the two social networks I am more interested in Linkedin. I have found Facebook to be useful in finding old friends from high school (mainly) and thus placate my curiosity but I remain skeptical that it will ever be a true communication platform for me. I may be different - and many have said so - but I also see in Facebook the potential to be a huge time drain. And I have more interesting things to do. From a professional perspective, it is important to maintain awareness and contact with social networks like Facebook which is why I won't shut it down. But I do get tired of the "cocktails" and other pointless prods.

Linkedin on the other hand is useful although I think it is still a blunt tool. Searching for 'publishing consultant' returns way too many to be useful and I often wonder how my profile has come up in any search. The site needs more effective taxonomy/ontology but also more opportunities to create micro-sites around either industry or competence (or both). The 'group' function doesn't seem to work so well and these seem to be more ad-hoc than particularly useful.

One other thing in my experience with respect to both networks is the level of penetration. In the case of Linkedin I still have more than 40% of my contacts who do not have a profile or don't appear to actively use the site. Ignoring my house-cleaning in Facebook, I would estimate that could be more than 5x as many friends I could add if they had a Facebook page. My survey of one seems to tell me that in both cases they can still grow their networks by significant amounts regardless of their aggressive growth paths.

Join me on linkedin (or facebook if you dare). Michael.Cairns @

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