Sumit Sharma

Lets combine our social and professional networks

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This note is about the need to consolidate professional and social networks.

In the theory of The Big Shift, John Hagel has spoken about the need for individuals to develop trust based relationships in order to foster a culture of collaboration and information exchange resulting in tinkering and productive friction. I agree – I’m more inclined to sharing ideas with someone I can trust and get along with, and this trust factor is enhanced by social commonalities.
In this regard, I do feel that it makes more sense for sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to converge towards a common platform and eventually consolidate – it just makes perfect sense. The case will be made even stronger for the future generations and here is why: (Link to my LinkedIn sustainability article).

Ellen Levy noted during a Supernova09 panel, people will have 3 options in filtering their data: brute force, artificial intelligence or social graphs. I believe that the latter two options can’t be separated since social graphs, as we know them today, don’t contain enough relevant information. The networking services today are operating in silos and have very specific information and I think that all this information should ideally be merged before we can extract meaningful relevance.

Coming back to the fact that I separate my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks: right now they are all separate, and until and unless Facebook can share user data with LinkedIn and Twitter, I will need to migrate all 3 social sites to get meaningful information. Why do I need to go to all three sites for my information? Perhaps its because of different activities and interests at different ages leading us to becoming hooked on a certain platforms and before we know it we’re members of several social and professional network sites.

My activity on LinkedIn started off because I received a few invitations from professionals who at the time were early adopters of. As more people such as myself started joining, we were trying to start a professional network because it was the only place where we could. However, at the same time, we found ourselves joining Facebook for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook then went onto evolving from a networking service to a entertainment platform so now we’re on Facebook to play games with each other in addition to the original reasons why we joined.
We then joined twitter because it became this powerful tool to stay in touch with the same friends we have on Facebook, however in a much more efficient manner. Another reason we joined Twitter was because it was a way to get insight into the lives of famous people and professional role models. It became a forum for learning and knowledge transfer – a new advertising platform for bloggers, thinkers and innovators to share their ideas. These are three very distinct reasons why we are members or these three social networks.

Now if there was a way for us to merge our LinkedIn networks with our social graphs, and do so in a way that fostered meaningful relationships between people with commonalities that extend beyond professional affiliations that would make a lot of sense.
A huge factor in getting to know people and develop networks is why people go to business school. Think of activities we pursue in business school as a giant Facebook community – we drink, party, eat and enjoy social and cultural events. We then use each others networks to grow our networks and explore areas of our career that we’re interested in. This in my mind, is an example of why Facebook and LinkedIn need to share information with each other. In order to estabilish that professional connection, or introduction, I need to get to know someone and have a beer with them or share a joke with them…Why are business deals made on the golf course, or in that luxury box during a ball game? Its that social and cultural bond.

Right now, which networking site has the upper hand, who controls the value? Is it Facebook with its social graph and a majority of humanity with its ever increasing membership base of 350M members?
 Even if there was a consolidation of networks, our social graphs will only be a single element of what we need to help filter information. There are so many other dimensions such as affiliating the context of location, time and our social, extra-curricular and professional preferences to our decision making algorithm. Social networks are definitely crucial however, there is an assumption that they are accurate reflections of our preferences which may not always be true, nor should they be treated as the primary set of reference points in filtering information to us. Limiting choices to us based on social graphs may limit serendipitous moments. Rather, we need to look at ourselves, our own behavior and figure out what we are like and using other data sets such as social graphs, we make filters that are much more richer in their logic and design.

If we start from Facebook social graphs, and use them to create LinkedIn relationships, wouldn’t that sound easier?


Written by Sumit

February 2, 2010 at 8:56 am

Posted in Social Networking

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