Monday, July 23, 2012

Facebook vs. LinkedIn: An Unfair Fight for Jobseekers or a Lesson in History?

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Is there a fight for candidates in the making?
I ran across a recruiting piece in Forbes last week that discussed the swirling rumors and challenges surrounding Facebook’s entry into professional networking to take on LinkedIn. LinkedIn already has the data, the tools, the recruiter functionality, and the reputation for being professional. Facebook is known as a ‘fun,’ almost completely personal, social media platform. Most in the recruiting field would call this an unfair fight.

Me? I am starting to experience déjà vu.

I seem to recall the days of yore: When a young, eccentric genius (and a Harvard dropout) was consistently told his work will never amount to anything. Microsoft will never be big because people won’t want PC’s.  Microsoft is not a threat because it’s only used in offices. Microsoft can never succeed in the gaming world because they are a ‘stodgy, uncool company.’ We all know where these predictions went.

I am willing to concede that it is a stretch to compare William Gates, III to Facebook’s Zuckerberg, but not too much of a stretch. That’s why, if the rumors are true, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how things play out in the later rounds.

Here’s why:

1. There is huge power in numbers and influencers.   With 8x’s the users, Facebook’s launching point will be far ahead of any other company trying to take on LinkedIn. If it weren’t for the sheer numbers, I would be skeptical. Many argue that it’s not the same. Facebook isn’t the same audience. As stated before Facebook is for ‘fun.’ Need I remind you of the X-Box? How many LinkedIn users also use Facebook? Facebook can unseat LinkedIn.  With 8X the user base, it doesn’t take many people to join in the professional side and match the professional powerhouse immediately. 

2. Yes, people want to play in a play space and work in a workspace…wait…what? No. People play at work now. Offices have ping pong tables and masseuses.  People hop jobs like the Easter Bunny, and it’s become the norm.  Integrating your personal and professional lives into ONE brand of confidence, where the tool that the brand provides enables you to quickly and easily keep the two separate may be Facebook’s saving move. 

3. Integration provides a bigger punch than an app. Much is discussed about the advantages LinkedIn has over the various Facebook job apps. If the professional networking is integrated and not an application; we’ve got ourselves a whole new fight. What if Facebook is successful in producing a professional network AND a personal network?  A different purpose for both. With whatever crossover people WANT to have.  Right now it’s impossible: It’s LinkedIn OR Facebook. Personal OR business. (Too many words in CAPS? I’m rolling…) What if Zuckerberg has already begun to take on the question of ‘why?’ and said ‘why not?’

4. Geniuses have a way of always bouncing back. I’ve already mentioned Bill Gates and Microsoft. What about what Zuckerberg has already faced?: A division in the upper ranks, pushback to the timeline, email, other changes, and a shaky IPO. Last time I checked, Facebook is still the world’s largest social media platform and still in business. Yes, people are leaving but people are joining everyday too.

It’s kind of funny that I feel the way I do since I, and other colleagues, actually think Facebook may very well fade out, but integrating professional networking into Facebook might be exactly what saves it.

A fight is never over until the ref calls it or the final bell sounds and we’re only in the locker room warming up.