LinkedIn beating Facebook at its own game

Facebook is the undisputed king of social right now, but I feel like they’re not doing a good job of connecting me with my friends in a meaningful way.  When I log in, I see all sorts of stuff that I don’t really care about.  For the longest time, Twitter was described to me as the place where you can learn what your friends are doing “right now”.  I have been able to mold twitter into a meaningful tool, but I don’t feel like I have the same abilities with Facebook.  They use their own algorithm to show me what they think is the most pertinent information, but I think there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Facebook has always done a great job of sending emails (friend requests, messages, photo tags, comments on photos) to drag you back into the site.  That’s why I was really surprised the other day when LinkedIn sent me an email much better than anything Facebook has ever sent me.  Check out the image that represents my my contacts that have changed positions in the past year:

Whoever had the idea for this promotion should get a big pat on the back.  I know that I logged into LinkedIn because of it, and I saw a lot of tweets about people comparing and discussing the number of friends who had changed positions.  This got me thinking – why did this have to be limited to my friends on LinkedIn, sent presumably once a year?

I had recently discovered a friend got married on Facebook, and I didn’t even know he was engaged.  Granted, I met this person when I was living in Japan and I don’t keep in touch with him, but I would have rather seen that he got married than 90% of the stuff that’s in my stream (no offense to my current friends on Facebook).  It got me thinking – why doesn’t Facebook produce a newsletter personably customized of my feed for the past 2 weeks?  I want to know whose relationship status changed, who got engaged, who got married, who gave birth (and who deserves congratulations).  There are a million other things I want to be notified about, but can’t really do at the moment.

Even if I did log in to Facebook every day (thankfully I don’t), I would miss these things.  Seems like Facebook is wasting a golden opportunity to bring in even more eyeballs than they currently are.  I need a service that logs into my Facebook account and gives me a two week summary of all of the stuff my friends have done and which ones were liked the most.  Why hasn’t Facebook done this yet?

I’m not saying that LinkedIn is going to beat Facebook in social networking, but they sure are making them look like they’re the old and slow competitor, aren’t they?  If I was Facebook, I would be copying this idea right away.

6 Comments

  1. You mention “Twitter was described to me as the place where you can learn what your friends are doing ‘right now'”. It seems like the Facebook newsfeed covers the “right now” part but not some of the more meaningful stuff that you bring up. I assume the challenge is building algorithms to figure out what’s meaningful. For example, FB sometimes suggest checking out the old photo albums of friends as a way to reminisce. Sometimes it’s great and it takes you back. Often the albums are totally irrelevant.

    • I’m sure those algorithms are going to get much better over time, and drive you to spend more time on the site. I would rather they spend time developing tools to make sure I see the important things, rather than algorithms that tell me which photos to look at for the second time.

  2. The idea of a Facebook newsletter, a recap for the week is really nice, and is in some ways inevitable. Digest versions of a robust stream of content is always appreciated. This would be a nice 3rd party application. You could subscribe to the type of digest that pleased you.

    The thing about the relationship aggregation you described is that it’s only one, arguably small and important, stream of the Fb content. Clearly it makes more sense for some content than other, i.e. relationship changes. I’ve always felt Fb not informing me friend’s have gotten married until I see their name change was a clear miss.

    But comparing Fb to LinkedIn is a false comparison because of the magnitude difference in their daily content. Fb is the most visited site on the the internet. LinkedIn keeps track of professional’s resume’s in a nicely searchable way. (Well, not that searchable, try searching your own name and see what other crap comes up.)

    LinkedIn needs to come up with ways to drive people to their site. As it stands today even connecting with coworkers on their site often leads to misunderstandings “hey man, are you thinking of leaving?!” They need to start the conversation. Fb does not.

    I’ve always wondered why Fb chooses not to show you how you’re connected to someone you don’t know. LinkedIn will go to enormous lengths to reveal how many degrees you are from someone you found but are not connected to. 2nd, 3rd, 4th tiers away. I assume people would LOVE to know how close they are to someone else on Fb. Today it will only tell you if you have direct friends in common. Why not 3rd tier?

    I believe in the need for LinkedIn to exist, and they’ve gotten their design to the point that it’s no longer notable, which is the point, but I will be interested to see how they stay interesting over time. As we all know, it’s grow or die and I’m not clear what additional value I need from them.

    • I agree that the connection graph is something that LinkedIn does really well, and that Facebook should look to integrate it into their site. Seems like it aligns with Facebook’s strategy and I’m surprised they haven’t built it in yet.

      I disagree with you when you talk about the magnitude difference in their daily content. Because so much content is produced on Facebook, I think that reinforces my argument that you need a summary of the important stuff. Also, Facebook might have made the conscious decision to put their time and resources into the algorithm that picks and chooses which news feed articles are displayed to you rather than this or other features. I think they’re missing a golden opportunity to pull people back in (maybe it’s only sent to users who haven’t been on the site for awhile).

      On the other hand, maybe they think that a newsletter type feature will decrease their page views because people won’t feel the urgency to see what their friends are doing, if they know they’ll get a nice summary of all of the things they need to know about. They must have thought about doing this feature, right? I just can’t believe that they have prioritized other things above it.

  3. Daniel, thanks very much for the compliment. We, in the LinkedIn UED team, are working very hard to greatly improve overall engagement and usage through experiences like these, and many others throughout the site. As for the team that created and deployed this experience, I’ll be sure to pass on the kind words. (Stay tuned, we have a lot more planned for 2011.)

    Steve Johnson
    Director of UED
    LinkedIn

  4. Oh man this is great. This just gave me an idea of how I can improve my client servicing model.

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