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Convergence of Social Networks

I read a post earlier today by Jeremiah Owyang entitled LinkedIn’s Web Strategy. I recently wrote a post about the value of LinkedIn and that was not what Jeremiah was questioning. His inquiry was more with regard to its strategic approach as related to other social networks, particularly Facebook.

LinkedIn sees itself as a social networking tool for business. Facebook is a social network for life, which may include business.

Does or should LinkedIn deploy an API to integrate into Facebook as Facebook positions itself as THE social networking platform? It is definitely an interesting strategy if LinkedIn feels there is a risk that it can be dis intermediated by Facebook if it deployed its own more business-centric offering. As it stands, I think there is still a tremendous amount of differentiation between the two sites, aside from the baseline (and annoyance) of having to manage networks and relationships in two places.

This begs a further point. We are sure to see a lot of convergence in the social networking space. There are simply too many players where maintaining your own personal information and your network of relationships. In order to survive, a social networking site is going to have a key differentiating value proposition to me as a user or a critical competitive advantage. Right now, I think Facebook and LinkedIn both have one, critical mass versus targeted business solution respectively. But there are a number of players out there as well such as the obvious MySpace, Friendster, even Plaxo and now Xing to name a few.

Of further interest is predict what the social networking landscape looks like and how we interact with it if these networks begin to converge either through consolidation or web service tie-in. Where does one stop and the other begin? How do we merge our networks as some of our network members only live in one or the other? And what capabilities do the networks give us as we try to segment out family from friends, friends from colleagues and colleagues from acquaintances.

Other good related reads:

LinkedIn, a valuable relationship engine

You see MySpace, Facebook and Friendster get a lot of the social networking press, but I still think that LinkedIn is one of the more valuable sites leveraging social networking principles. Now granted, I am no longer in college or do not use social networking to keep in contact with friends so my view on the space may be somewhat slanted to where I get personal value.

A blog I follow quite a lot, Read/WriteWeb, had a fantastic post on the topic some time ago, The Social Networking Faceoff. I believed then and still believe that page views is not the most accurate indicator of user value when it comes to social networking sites. That does not mean it is not a solid indicator on how well the site can monetize itself. My comments on their post back in September is still my opinion today:

…LinkedIn serves the business professional extremely well. I use it much more effectively as a networking and reference tool and use it in a much different manner than one can use the other networking sites you outline in the post.

Think LinkedIn is here to stay. Will it have stratospheric revenues due to “eyeball” test, probably not. But for overall long-term value it provides users, it will be interesting to see who competes… Just my thoughts…

Since then LinkedIn has gone through some changes at the top. Konstantin Guericke left to launch and be CEO of jaxtr. Reid Hoffman, the founding CEO, has hired a replacement in Dan Nye and is set to focus more of product and business strategy, and the company raised about $13 million in financing back in January. It will be interesting to see how this translates for future LinkedIn growth. I still contend that it is one of most valuable social networking sites on the web and has a fantastic audience demographic of mostly business professionals. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds…