Linkbook and FacedIn

Business & Pleasure in Social Networking

Facebook and LinkedIn share some qualities with e-mail. In my seminars, I've been telling my audiences for a long time that e-mail can be whatever we want it to be, whether we use it for business letters, casual notes, or a form of instant messaging. You can use it for all three, but confusing them can lead to disaster. The same holds true for Facebook and LinkedIn, except maybe for the disaster part. So far anyway.

LinkedIn started as the stodgy business site where you could find such announcements as "This month, I'll be speaking at the annual convention of the International Brotherhood of Flange Adjusters" and "Read my latest article in the October issue of the Wall Street Pennysaver." Harrumph.

And on Facebook, you could find such riveting status updates as "dude hear are pics of me geting waisted on spring brake sorry their out of focus" and "I'm eating cheese." It also holds the distinction of apparently being the site where the only available punctuation mark is the exclamation point.

Have you noticed a change in the respective tones of Facebook and LinkedIn? I'm seeing hints that many of us are using them interchangeably. My worry is that this could be seen as being unprofessional.

Half of the issue is the get-acquainted stage of using a new site or continuing to use a redesigned one. After Facebook's recent facelift, many people are mistakenly using the status space for their replies to individual messages. They'll soon get wise. All it takes is one embarrassing faux pas.

The other half of the issue is the natural tendency to bring along our attitude toward one site when we start using a new one. Lately LinkedIn is lightening up and Facebook is forming part of our marketing strategy. And that's because of the way people are using the sites. I have many friends and contacts in both networks, and 99% of them are balanced in their use of both sites. But I've seen a few of them instigate the creeping casualness on LinkedIn and strafe us with business blasts on Facebook.

I once connected with a Facebook "friend" who was a speaker somewhere in the northern Midwest from whom I thought I could learn something about using the site as a marketing tool. Turns out her method was to carpet bomb her friends' home pages with status updates, business announcements, and general nonsense. More than fifty per cent of my home page became a billboard for what was happening in her life alone. I had to hide all of her posts in order to see when my other contacts were picking their kids up from school and if they were out of milk.

While a light attitude can work on Facebook, my impression is that LinkedIn users want to keep things business-like. Most LinkedInners provide us with such status updates as what job they're looking for or the fact they got a promotion. But once in a while, I'll see ones that say "I'm making toast, then it's off to work!!!!" and "Go Steelers!" Those aren't LinkedIn status updates, or even Facebook notices; that's Twitter.

LinkedIn is for business with a little bit of fun. Facebook is for fun with a little bit of business. We have both and they're both free, so let's keep them separate. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe the two networks are in imminent danger of becoming each other. But I do notice a centering trend. Send me an e-mail and let me know how these sites work for you.

Jay Speyerer has been a writer, a speaker, and an educator for more than 30 years, successfully helping people achieve their communication goals in memoir writing, e-mail, cross-cultural communication, and presentation skills. Want to communicate better? Find out how at his web site:, or email him at [email protected]. Top