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LinkedIn

For those who find it more productive to spend their time building their professional network, LinkedIn fits the bill. In an attempt to be a master of one trade, LinkedIn uses the same features found in social networks: profiles, searching, connecting. But it also focuses on completing business tasks: recruiting, securing leads, and locating industry experts (see Figure 5).

Figure 5Figure 5 Reflecting its business focus, LinkedIn's homepage is utilitarian and action-oriented.

Everything about this site—the features, look and feel, and company messaging—is designed to support LinkedIn's focus on supporting business networking. The profile is much more resumé-like (see Figure 6).

Figure 6Figure 6 Your LinkedIn profile lists past work experience. Former managers and co-workers can post endorsements, adding their commentary to your work.

And although other services let you write "testimonials" about your friends, LinkedIn calls them endorsements, and they are specifically job-related. They work as sort of an online reference, which can save time for prospective employers. In other words, you can brag about your previous work experience, and future business contacts have the comfort of knowing that one or more people you worked with or for agree with you.

LinkedIn also professionalizes the circle-building process. As you browse through your friends' networks on other sites, you can add them to your own network. LinkedIn requires that you know a contact's email address in order to do that. And it gives the contact the ability to approve being added to your network. If you don't have their email, you need to request it from someone in your network. The request must be approved at every point along the way, so if you're trying to reach someone three degrees away, it must be approved by the two contacts in between you and the person you are trying to reach.

By requiring this approval, as well as making future plans to charge for making requests to people outside your network, LinkedIn hopes to provide a natural filter for spam and other irrelevant contacts. This feature is free during the beta period. Also, even though all three social networks mentioned here were in "beta" according to their respective companies, LinkedIn was the only one that didn't display any latency or timing-out issues during the evaluation period.

LinkedIn Snippet

Get Found—increase your ranking in search results:

  1. Create rich enough profile—use good keywords.

  2. Maintain a good number of connections—people with most connections are listed first.

  3. Request endorsements—just one makes people 4x more likely to initiate contact with you.

There are all kinds of reasons to use a social network. You can find old school chums, connect with former co-workers to find a new job, or just exchange testimonials with friends and have some fun. The best use of a social network is to use it to facilitate offline contact. So set up a date with the friend of a friend, get the gang together for a game of one-on-one, or poll your network for that resume for that recruiting challenge you had at work. You'll be glad you did.

Lingo

Although the portfolio of feature offerings overlaps considerably from site to site, finding the same feature can be a challenge because each site may call it something different. The following table provides a translation guide:

 

Friendster

Orkut

LinkedIn

Profile

Profile

Profile

Profile

Messaging

Personal messages

Messages

No internal system, sent to your email

Recommendations

Testimonials

Testimonials

Endorsements

People you know

Gallery

My Friends

Address Book: Connections

Favorite People

Bookmarks

Bookmarks, Hot & Crush Lists

n/a

Search

Gallery > Search

Search

Search

Possible search criteria

First and last name, email address, gender, age, location, interests, relationship status

First or last name, gender, age, location, interests, relationship status

First or last name, geography, title, company, industry

Cool feature

Bulletin board: Send a notice to all your "friends"

Karma: "Friends" rate you as being trustworthy, cool, or sexy; 5 or more ratings make your karma visible to others

Network: Summary page of your network, showing how many people you're connected to with interesting factoids, industry and geographic breakdown


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