There's a single, fundamental reason it would be harder for an upstart new website to beat LinkedIn than for one to beat Facebook: There is more risk associated with losing your network on LinkedIn.
As I prepare for a business trip to New York next week, I sifted through my connections on LinkedIn. I'll admit, I don't use LinkedIn that often. But when I do, it's definitely more purposeful than my daily meanderings on Facebook. Looking through my connections, LinkedIn told me that a friend from high school had a new job that definitely related to the purpose of my trip to NYC.
This same friend is one whose Facebook photos I've commented on, she's done the same, and occasionally we catch up via chat. And, yet, I had no idea that we should be talking personal AND business.
The question suddenly crossed my mind: what holds more value -- my Facebook friends or my LinkedIn connections (especially if many of them are one and the same)?
The answer, simply put, comes down to risk.
What If You Lost Half Your People?
I'm not a power user of LinkedIn. In fact, I need to be better about connecting with people after meeting them in the real world. So I have about 500 LinkedIn connections. Facebook isn't too different, with 486 friends.
Probably many of you are similar, while others have many more friends.
But, imagine this: What would be the effect of losing half of your connections or half of your friends? That’s the likely scenario if you were to switch from Facebook or from LinkedIn to something else. You'd choose not to link up with some people, some people would choose not to link up with you, and some people would just get lost in the shuffle.
Half of Facebook
I value all my friends greatly. But, I'd wager I have about a dozen close friends, a couple dozen more regularly talked-to friends and three dozen more friends whom I hope, but can't be certain, to see in the next year or two. That leaves a lot of friends left on the list.
It's not that I don't care about those friends. It's not that I won't miss them and think about them. But, in the next six months, it won't necessarily affect me not to be linked to them via social media.
Heck, there are probably a couple dozen for which I wouldn't be all that disappointed if I stopped seeing their messages in my Feed (for my friends reading this, OF COURSE I don't mean you).
Half of LinkedIn
I don't regularly talk to, communicate with, share with and otherwise interact with a good 75% of my connections on LinkedIn. However, I would find it absolutely tragic if I lost half my connections on LinkedIn.
You see, it's easy to friend someone on Facebook -- there is very little being asked of that transaction. However, connecting with someone on LinkedIn inherently means you are agreeing to talk business with them -- a transaction with both a personal and professional stake.
Someone you see the value in connecting with today will likely hold much less apparent value in six to 12 months if you haven't had any interaction with that person in the time in between.
Ramping Back Up
So, that connection you haven't talked to in two years, who suddenly represents a win-win business contact, has a lot more risk associated with losing than…that friend you haven’t talked to in two years whose really cute kid’s photo you might miss.
At the end of the day, leaving Facebook for a new platform isn’t that risky. But, leaving LinkedIn and risking your connections not reconnecting is extremely risky. Said another way: it’s a lot harder to ramp back up on LinkedIn than Facebook
Now, I’m not saying Facebook is currently at risk, but what can your business take away from all this?
- Make sure your Facebook strategy is portable.
- Experiment with LinkedIn, since it will be around.
- Know the mentality the same user is bringing to Facebook vs LinkedIn (or any social media platform, for that matter).
- Connect with people on LinkedIn now, as opposed to later.
Okay, I gotta go. I have about 300 business cards for people I need to connect with on LinkedIn.