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Thursday, May 19, 2011

LinkedIn's IPO

LinkedIn, the business-oriented social network, had a killer initial public offering today -- so much so, that the press likened it to the Internet bubble of 1999-2000. Remember the TV ads for those Superbowls? LinkedIn becomes the first social network to IPO. Facebook is still privately held, although its presumed valuation is higher.

I joined LinkedIn several years go. In terms of connections -- or, as Facebook calls them, friends -- LinkedIn is my primary social network, by far. I have over 600 first-degree connections in LinkedIn and over 11,000,000 people accessible for contact... a veritable white pages for the industries that I work in. It's also a great way to stay in touch with former colleagues at Nortel and see what they're up to, and it provides information about open jobs. In fact, the job I took in January came to my attention in LinkedIn. However, I spend more hours per week in Facebook than LinkedIn.

How many social networks do we need? How many are too many? And what functionality should they offer?

Occasionally I get an invitation to a new network, usually a LinkedIn wannabee. I always decline. I don't have time to keep up with additional networks; LinkedIn and Facebook are sufficient. If a new social network comes along, it would have to bump either LinkedIn or Facebook off my hot list -- just as Facebook bumped MySpace.

LinkedIn has added quasi-Facebook features like groups and news. I don't use them. The original LinkedIn is all I need or want. This presumably displeases "investors" (i.e. speculators) who bought the stock today.

In the beginning I kept my worklife separate from my friends and family. LinkedIn was for work, and Facebook was for friends and family. But I've noticed that the barrier is breaking down; some of my colleagues are on Facebook, and some of my friends and family are on LinkedIn. Should I duplicate all contacts across both networks? Do work colleagues want to be friends, and is that a good idea -- particularly in a hierarchical company?