Facebook should buy LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has the right idea - a social network dedicated to networking and essentially a place to post your 'resume' for all to see. However, LinkedIn appears to struggle in keeping up with its growth, while also being a 'follower' of other social networking sites' functionality (i.e. status messages ala Facebook). I never have a good experience with LinkedIn. It's a clunky design, has slow load times, and just doesn't function the way my other social networks do. The news feed just spits out information at you that doesn't have much context or relevance - and for a professional networking site with peers in my field or in my industry, I want more.

Facebook has obviously taken the throne of the best social network - or at least in my mind it is. However, Facebook is my platform for my personal life. It's where I keep up with old friends, current friends, and maybe new friends. I've 'friended' some co-workers of mine and some industry/field peers, but I am very selective with who I let into 'my life' on Facebook. I have set up a 'work' group that I have put co-workers, etc. in. Facebook allows me to not include this group in some of the information I publish, as well as selected content on my 'info' page. But to me the privacy settings for the security groups you create are a very 'all or nothing' situation. I can hide my status messages from my work group, or I can't. I also can't create status messages just for my work group. I can let my work group see my wall with my friends' posts, or I can't. I always have to second guess my status messages and my behavior on Facebook because I know that my coworkers can see some of my content. You can't vent about work in your status message because your co-workers are your friends. And why even connect with your co-workers on Facebook if you're going to hide everything from them?

You might say, "Well just don't add your co-workers as friends on Facebook". But I want to connect with co-workers through a social network, as well as industry peers and folks in my field. But Facebook makes it difficult for the average user to separate their personal life from their professional life, and it usually ends up getting people in trouble - if not fired. I'm not condoning stupidity online, but the fact is that my generation and the generations below me connect socially online. We eat, sleep, and breathe online. Social networks are not going to go away. They are going to become more of the norm and become even more complex and ingrained in our lives. Most of my friends and I stay in touch soley through Facebook. And who doesn't want to complain to their friends about a bad day at work or someone giving you work-pains, without your co-workers 'eavesdropping' or telling on you?

So what we need is Facebook to separate our personal lives from our work lives for us. And instead of starting from scratch, Facebook should buy LinkedIn and integrate their database with their existing profiles. LinkedIn is trying to be your Facebook for your professional life, but like I mentioned earlier, they are failing at it. Consolidating my online lives (sounds sad I know), both professional and personal into one Web site that's consistent in format, design, and functionality would be the ideal set up.

Here's how it will go down:
  1. Facebook buys LinkedIn
  2. Facebook enhances/modifies/fixes LinkedIn to match the existing look/functionality of Facebook.
    - "Facebook Work" (or some other, much more cleverly branded name) works identical to your existing Facebook, but it focuses on professional connections and connecting with co-workers.
    - Your status updates are what you're working on, thinking about, questions, or problems you're solving. Groups are now professional groups (FB can pull in all the existing LinkedIn groups) as well as organizations and clubs - I would love to be able to easily access Social Media Club Columbia information this way...so my event calendar on my "Facebook Work" would feature upcoming events I'm attending (conferences, meetings, etc.) and it wouldn't get cluttered with all of my Facebook friends' birthdays and parties.
    - Applications focus more on work/networking related functionality (industry specific, etc.). Maybe they go through an approval process to keep out the 'quizzes' and other annoying apps. Or perhaps - to keep it clean and simple - no apps.
    - You can use other existing Facebook functionality like uploading photos with tagging, videos, and perhaps a new feature to upload Word docs, PowerPoints, and Excel spreadsheets for sharing (that would be cool!). I could upload a presentation that my manager and I presented at a conference, and then tag her to it.
    - You can 'friend' and connect with other "Facebook Work" members -- and still create segments or security groups to make certain content is only available to certain groups. So I could have a 'co-workers' group and a 'intranet professionals' group, and a 'utility peers' group, etc., etc., etc.
    - Companies can create 'pages' to promote themselves as employers and to help with recruiting. And of course you could also have pages for professional organizations, industry groups, things of interest, etc. I could be a fan of "Project Management" or "Intranets" or "Jobs in Charleston".
    - The Marketplace feature for "Facebook Work" becomes a great new way for companies to buy and sell assets from one another. A large company may be upgrading and could recover on an investment in the old equipment by selling it to a smaller company who can't afford the newest equipment. A new section will also be added for posting jobs -- how easy and convenient would it be for employers and people looking for jobs - and with all of the information "Facebook Work" mines (similar to Facebook now with ads), you could create ads for jobs and target them directly to the users who would be interested or qualified.
  3. Users access "Facebook Life" (personal version) and "Facebook Work" through the same entry way (Facebook.com). Initially, you can log in to your LinkedIn profile (if it existed before FB bought it) by using the same login info you used to login to LinkedIn. This would take you to "Facebook Work". Or you can login to "Facebook Life", your existing Facebook info, using your same Facebook login.
  4. So as a user of both Facebook and LinkedIn, after the merge I want to connect my FB profile (now "Facebook Life") to my "Facebook Work" account (previously my LinkedIn account). Facebook has a setting where I can go in and 'Connect Life & Work" where I enter login information for both -- select 'Connect' -- and then specify one login that will give me access to both.
  5. After 'connecting' your accounts, next time you login to Facebook, you'll see your "Facebook Life" as the default page - and at the top there's a tab that says "Facebook Work". After you click on the tab, you flip to your "Facebook Work" environment - which could be branded Facebook-like, but maybe a new color instead of the usual blue to help delineate the difference between "Life" and "Work". You can also go into the Facebook settings and set "Facebook Work" as your default screen upon login if you prefer.
  6. New users to Facebook would have the option to create just one of "Facebook Life" or "Facebook Work" or both. You wouldn't be required to have both - i.e. High School students or Middle School kids who are on Facebook (so young!) would probably not have use for "Facebook Work" ---- "Facebook School"??? Hmm.. think Blackboard or some of the other Web sites we used in High School and College for our teachers to push assignments to us and where we submitted papers, took quizzes, etc. Wow..that's an entirely separate blog post, but yet another genious idea! Ha!
  7. When posting content to either "Facebook Life" or "Facebook Work", you have the option to post to both "Life" and "Work", or just one or the other. So if I'm on my "Facebook Life" tab -- when I post a status update, if I wanted to duplicate it on my "Facebook Work", I could perhaps check a box or radio button below the status box that would publish the status to both. If the option wasn't selected, then the status would just publish to "Facebook Life". How wonderful to post to both or to be completely selective in what content goes where. I realize that you can mimic some of this functionality using security settings and what not, but like I said before -- it's not granular enough, and most, if not the majority, of Facebook users don't understand privacy settings or how to use them, hence all of the uproar about what gets posted to Facebook.
  8. And perhaps security could even get more granular -- when posting a status update to "Facebook Work", I'd like for only my co-workers to see: "Christy will be holding a training session today on SharePoint at 3:30pm in Room 111". I could select a security group from a drop down under the status box - "co-workers". Bye bye Yammer. And with this type of granularity (word?), this could potentially replace intranets.
Think about it - everyone is always blogging or discussing about how people share too much information on Facebook. That the lines between personal lives and work lives are too blurred. You want to share with your friends the Halloween party you went to, but you know your co-workers will see the pictures and you hesitate. "Facebook Work" keeps you from ever having to second guess. It also helps you with job searches, networking, and engagement with co-workers.

So Facebook... if you're listening..... you've said you want to be the end all be all of our internet lives -- so why not be a part of our professional lives? We're too stupid to separate personal life from our professional life using the existing Facebook tools, and I can't adapt to LinkedIn's wannabe Facebook setup. It's a win for you Facebook - you'd attract all of those stodgy users who are afraid of Facebook because they only hear of the bad exposure. And after using "Facebook Work" and getting used to the tools and set up, the former 'anti-Facebook' grump would most likely set up a "Facebook Life" account as well. More users, more information, more advertising dollars! So help us Facebook... buy LinkedIn and give us another reason to be on Facebook during the day at work, other than filling out our top 5 movies or finding out what 80's cartoon character we are.

Here's a rough...and I mean rough...simple mock up -- click to see larger:


Jack Leblond said...

Great idea! I also struggle with the co-worker/friend thing, this would certainly help that.

Ike said...

I've given this a lot of thought, and I don't know if it would mesh.

You'd be shutting out a LOT of people who work in places that boot Facebook but not LinkedIn.

Also -- LinkedIn does have a very active community for answers and expertise, and Facebook really doesn't have the engine baked-in for handling that.

Additionally, while you and I do not work at companies that have coopted LinkedIn features for intra-company link-sharing and the like, it is happening.

I do agree that LinkedIn's interface is a little clunky and slow -- but UI isn't everything.