Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business Relationships

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business Relationships offers Quick Thoughts on How Facebook Compares to LinkedIn and Twitter

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business RelationshipsBusiness executives like to put Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms in the same category with each other, “social networks,” and they often ask me which one is “best.” This approach is normal when considering an emerging phenom like Web 2.0 venues, but it is not the right way to think: although Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others all enable your company to engage your stakeholders, each venue is so distinct and the techniques of engagement so different, that they do not allow an apples to apples comparison. That said, here I will describe each platform’s uniqueness and suggest how you can use it to develop business relationships.

Adding to the confusion, Facebook has a LinkedIn Group, and LinkedIn has Facebook and Twitter groups. I encourage you to spend some time there if you are interested in how they can work together. Here I’ll present my back-of-the-envelope thoughts, and I encourage you to share yours in comments.

One one level, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are very similar because they enable sharing and connection.. but the way that they do it and the social context around sharing and connection are quite distinct. In addition, each platform has several “models” of using each as well. That said, here are some generalities I can offer from my experience coaching execs and firms.

First off, most people assume that “Facebook is personal and LinkedIn is business.” Although I recognize that as “most people’s” assumption, I also strongly disagree.

You can use LinkedIn to develop relationships that will become personal, to ask people for help with your personal goals. Likewise, you can ask Facebook friends for help with business issues. To do this successfully, you need to recognize where other people are coming from and to be crisp and transparent with your communications. You gain synergy by using them together, which is the core idea for my new offering, the Executive’s Guide to Facebook.

Comparing LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business Relationships: linkedin overviewLinkedIn’s social context is business, so it’s excellent for asking for/offering help for business purposes. Few people are on LinkedIn purely for fun, and the social context is mostly serious. It’s arguably the premier open “executive collaboration” platform. Answers is a fantastic forum for connecting around business contexts. LinkedIn recognizes that its members are very purposeful, and part of the company’s value prop is taking care to introduce only things that will add value and not crowd out business. Its strategy for Apps is one example; the company vets Apps very strenuously, where Facebook (generally) lets the members decide which Apps will predominate.

LinkedIn is an excellent venue for developing your professional network comprised of people who have complementary interests and knowledge. I compare LinkedIn to a garden.

You can design your network to align with your professional goals, although most people don’t think of doing that. They have weeds and flowers mixed. For more on this, see Reclaiming Your LinkedIn Network.

Recognize that “most” people are not on LinkedIn all day; it’s not as immediate as Twitter. This is generally true, but certain networks can use it in a more immediate way (i.e. Valley friends). Don’t update your Status Visibility several times/day; be more judicious and share important things that can engage your network.

The general expectation for LinkedIn is business. But, let’s say you have a friend with a substance abuse problem. You would likely receive excellent advice by posting a question in Answers because it would be unusual and impactful. I have seen and bookmarked highly personal questions on LinkedIn that got excellent responses. When you do unusual things, there is some risk but also immense reward. I do things like this carefully.

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business Relationships: facebook overviewFacebook is more like “the portal of life,” and it covers more of the human spectrum of people. The context is “social” and personal in a more holistic way. A larger portion of members are on it constantly. Generally, it’s not as immediate as Twitter, but again, it depends on your network; some groups resemble Twitter in their communications and expectations of your participation.

Facebook is currently much more of a platform in that its API has led to an explosion of Apps. I know several companies personally who use its infrastructure (see MedCommons). Facebook is awesome for cross-boundary initiatives that cross the business/personal boundary.. like caring for a loved one (neighbors, doctors, family, friends).

I estimate that asking for business help on Facebook is a bit less risky than asking for personal help on LinkedIn. Since it comes from a personal perspective, that includes business. But don’t be a sleeze.

You have to be clear about what you’re up to and how you are going about it.Don’t try to “sell” people on Facebook. For that matter, don’t try to “sell” people anywhere, it’s so 20th century, it shows people that your personal agenda is more important than your relationship with them.

Facebook is really into “causes,” because they are things about which people care and around which people can connect. Pages and Groups look similar (and in fact run over a lot of the same architecture), but the purpose is different. Pages represent Facebook’s attempt to monetize the inherent value of its network. People are tired of being “sold to,” and there’s significant backlash against that on Facebook.

To succeed in doing business on Facebook, you need to go to the value, how it’s meaningful, and deemphasize products and services. The way you do it is very subtle and beyond the scope here.

Facebook is more freewheeling: the company is more likely than LinkedIn to shoot first and aim later (i.e. Beacon). That’s part of its culture, it has a fast innovation cycle. LinkedIn is smart in that it knows its core members are more risk averse and would not appreciate an overtly fast innovation cycle.

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for Developing Business Relationships: twitter overviewTwitter is not a “social” network in the same category as the other two, but it’s very social, and it’s a network! It’s ultra fast and information-based. Because mobility is vital, it’s more real-time and immediate than almost anything. Although other social networks have mobile apps, these are add-ons for them.. Twitter’s core value prop is status and SMS. Because of this, it’s the closest to the 360° of someone that you can get. There is less filtering because there’s no need to wait until you get to the computer.

I think of Twitter as “social dialtone” because you’re always connected with your followers. It’s awesome for real-time crowdsourcing. More thoughts on the Executive’s Guide to Twitter.

Parting Shots

  • All three are quintessentially Web 2.0. You have to be authentic and transparent.
  • You can do many things on each but respect their social contexts and the social contexts of various groups that are on each. There are many exceptions that most people don’t understand.
  • Also see Reflections on Using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Now, what are your experiences?  How have you used each?

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