LinkedIn Is Not a Social Network says Tom Davenport

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Tom Davenport over at my alma mater, Babson College, just published a provocative post about social networks for business. He argues that there is no such thing as a business social network. And in his opinion, Linkedin is hardly a useful social network unless you are seeking a job or a favor from someone you don't know.

I like Tom Davenport as he cuts through the hype to explain what is truly relevant for business. He played the devil's advocate in the Enterprise 2.0 discussions and it looks like he's planning to do the same here. But I disagree with him in the case of Linkedin.

While LinkedIn maybe a job tool for lots of people, it does have two other very important purposes. First, it is my professional address book and one that automatically updates itself. Is this social networking, yes because I can use the "address book" to connect with other people and sometimes do. Secondly, it tells me what's going on in my field. The network updates are similar to Facebook's news feeds. And they're useful for me to keep pace with peers moving between companies, starting new ones and getting promotions.

Can Linkedin be better? Of course, they most definitely can do a lot of things better. In fact, here's my Linkedin wish list -

1. Remove the recruiters from Linkedin. They're an absolute nuisance and distract from the network's purpose. I'm tired of getting spammed by them and I am sure a lot of others are too.

2. Institute some form of reciprocity system. I should have a rating or points to give based on how much I reciprocate. When I ask someone for help, that person should know how helpful a person I am. The recommendations system is useful but this can do a lot more.

3. Figure out how to crack groups. Their group feature is a copy of Facebook's. That's not enough. For example, LinkedIn could partner with industry associations to create actually relevant groups. Conferences could all have LinkedIn pages through which registration, agendas and feedback are handled. LinkedIn could also be telling me which groups I should be joining.

4. Give me more to do on LinkedIn. Yes, I could be using LinkedIn for more business purposes. Just help me figure out what those are. For example, I'd participate in a community of peers that together evaluate trends and technologies using a prediction market. I may even be willing to participate in virtual panels hosted on LinkedIn.

Follow me on Twitter (@shivsingh) for more insights on digital strategy and social media.


Good post. The group functionality will be getter better over the next year as they figure out there's tremendous value in providing the tools. Why? Same as myspace and facebook. Make money.

I just setup a group for my employer -- LinkedIn's participation in opensocial will enable the organization to leverage information. Everyone wins.

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