Jul 2010

Are you Linked In?

Posted in Business tactics, Contact, Social Media | 4 Comments »

Not too long ago, I stated that LinkedIn wasn’t as popular as Facebook. I’ll be honest, I thought it would get sucked into the heaving morass of social media that is Facebook a la The Blob in the not-too-distant future. But seemingly, Mashable’s ever-impressive documentation of statistics has proved me wrong.

Nope, that figure isn’t false. Two billion dollars. Admittedly, it doesn’t hold a candle to the ridiculous worth of Facebook, but it’s an impressive display of what happens when you create a social networking site that focuses on the business side of things.

Far too many people are getting caught out doing silly things at parties via Facebook, but their LinkedIn profiles? Immaculate. Neat CV structure, experience, formal and (sometimes) well-worded recommendations from ex-colleagues or clients go a long way to improving someone’s online image.

We like the attitude of sites like LinkedIn. It’s a site that really devotes itself to providing as much information for every industry possible within its expansive networking system, and its this system that proves to be so popular.

It’s rather like networking at an industry event – you know the PR, and you know a few fellow journalists, who in turn, may know bigger journalists, who know or may even be related to the big people at the top of the corporate food chain. Now, hassling your way through endless degrees of separation at a cocktail party or a product launch can be mentally exhausting.

However, do it on LinkedIn and it’s simply seen as a normal, everyday activity. You’d be shocked to see who you can link to through the LinkedIn’s connection system, and getting your contacts to introduce you (via a simple series of clicks) is an incredibly powerful business tool.

It’s also a fantastic forum for people who work freelance or contract to discuss challenges they may be having at work in an environment where it makes them look productive, rather than simply incompetent. I’m a member of a few writing groups, and I have the writing questions section up on my welcome page. I’ve seen authors, copywriters and marketing veterans write long screeds out of the kindness of their hearts, and it’s fantastic to see a personal favourite author of yours take up someone’s question and run with it.

It’s not about friendship, sadly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Although the LinkedIn ‘adding connections’ system does indeed seem to be geared towards business – asking you if you worked with/for/alongside/above them or if you’re simply an ‘other’, certainly it isn’t openly telling you to get all your mates to listen the second you’re done posing for your display picture. But make use of linking yourself to your friends and justifying it to the system, and you’ll soon realise that Barry at the pub actually works in a similar industry to you, and that PR bloke you’ve been hunting for months is actually one of his work colleagues.

It’s a great platform to promote a business from, and being able to both apply for and post jobs on its impressive employment section effectively turns it into a combination of business newspaper, job site and business network. It doesn’t mess about – your employment history and recommendations requirements (though optional, are encouraged though the use of phrases like “one more recommendation and your profile will be 100% complete!) really do make sure you know why you’re logged in here – to work, and to liaise.

It’s a different kind of Facebook. The galleries may be gone, and everyone’s a little less relaxed, but the politics, networking and digging through people’s history is essentially the same. Having the CV of a personal favourite author or copywriter at your fingertips is gold, and being able to see how the CEO of a company you want to emulate got to where he was is always going to trump “liking” that photo of his yacht.

(Note: those looking for my personal LinkedIn can find it here.)

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Jul 2010

Half a billion and counting…

Posted in Contact, Usability | 0 Comments

Yep, it’s official – Facebook has hit 500 million users, and the internet continues its struggle for dominance over our lives and minds. Quite frankly, I think it happened years ago, but I’m sure many people paranoid about how much time they really spend on social networking sites would love to disagree with me, especially in front of their line manager.

Sometimes, I wonder how big Facebook’s going to get, really. With Mark Zuckerberg due to appear on The Simpsons, Facebook’s fame will be cemented in history, a history that is now digitally catalogued, stored, and compiled into the amateur encyclopaedia that is Wikipedia. That being said, are we truly grateful to Facebook for what it’s done to the internet?

For one thing, it’s connected 500 million people, and you simply can’t disagree with that statistic. It’s an incredible achievement, and one that the forefathers of the World Wide Web would be proud to see occur. However, it also means 500 million people are slowly exposing more and more of themselves to their employers, rivals, the press and to the darker agents sifting through Facebook’s many groups and friend networks.

It’s like the six degrees of separation, only multiplied to the nth degree. People are losing their jobs after whining about their employers, but that’s only possible because they’re publicising the wrong parts of themselves. If you’re a high-profile businessman, that gallery of Bangkok pictures is probably a silly idea. Basic stuff, no?

It just proves we’re still learning when it comes to technology that made its debut less than a couple of decades earlier. People are still releasing potentially harmful information about themselves onto the web, other people (or, intelligence-wise, the same people, really) are buying the iPhone 4 despite the recorded flaws, and most still get Windows releases even though we know they won’t work near-perfectly for almost half a decade.

At the same time, we’re more connected than ever before, and this has advanced politics, social networking, business networking. Hell, I may not be the biggest advocate of Facebook around, but I respect and know the power of it, and my LinkedIn account helps me get recommendations I can then use when I’m bigging myself up somewhere else.

LinkedIn, however, is rather different to Facebook. There’s no gossip, no controversy, no intimate details, just pure business, and the odd brown-nosed recommendation from someone you’ve hardly worked with who’d like to be introduced to that CEO you know. It’s more competitive, more serious, and for that reason, far more likely to fail.

Look at society – down go the serious films, up come the comic book movies. Down goes the classic literature, up comes vampire novels. We’re entering into a paradise of fun, of not caring about the more serious ways of enjoying ourselves, and aiming instead for the appealing, the easy, the simply enjoyable and the indulgent warmth that comes with that.

For this reason, Facebook will, in my opinion, hit a billion users well before 2015. This sounds like a mind-bending figure, but it’s not. Once the tweens reach adulthood, and the ever-younger net users hit the right age to start surfing, we’ll see a generation of social networkers who don’t even know what a VHS is. Doesn’t that terrify you? Terrifies me, all right.

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