SideXSide: LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 05-23-2011

In the world of social networking, Facebook and Twitter get most of the attention from CIOs -- and not much of it positive. With hundreds of millions of users, these are the social media sites you probably worry most about your employees using in inappropriate ways. In contrast, LinkedIn -- with more than 100 million registered users -- has tended to attract professionals. Judging by the sheer number of CIO- and IT-oriented groups on the site, we're betting that many of you already maintain a profile on the network.

In the wake of the LinkedIn (LNKD) IPO on the New York Stock Exchange on May 19, the business-networking site is now gaining the kind of media spotlight that has long been directed at its more popular competitors. This SideXSide comparison aims to help you gauge which of the "big three" social networking sites is best suited to serve your  professional networking purposes.

SideXSide: LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter?

Features

LinkedIn

Facebook

Twitter

Basic Focus

Business users

Consumers and business users

Consumers and business users

Cost

Free, though advertising efforts are paid.

Free, though advertising efforts are paid.

Free, though advertising efforts are paid.

Key Features

LinkedIn is a social network designed with business users in mind. The service allows users to connect with colleagues, former classmates and fellow professionals to expand their networks. In addition, it allows users to join groups based on certain professions or topics. Companies use the site to advertise job openings and seek qualified candidates.

Facebook is the world's largest social network. Unlike LinkedIn, Facebook doesn't rely upon professionals to attract users. Instead, the site is open to any users who are 13 years of age and older. Users have their own profile pages that include wall comments, images, and more. The site also has a robust apps and games section. Users tend to meld their personal and business lives on Facebook in a way doesn't tend to happen on LinkedIn.

Twitter is much different than Facebook or LinkedIn. This social network offers users the ability to send out messages in 140 characters or less. Users can search out other members based on areas of interest and "follow" them to receive updates the other person "tweets" out. There are fewer privacy options on Twitter than on the other social media sites. A user can make their updates private, at which point, only followers will be able to see updates.

Groups

LinkedIn arguably has the best collection of professional groups of any social network. The site lets users form groups based on shared interests or topics. Groups can be open to all members or closed and accessible by invitation only. CIOs, CTOs and other senior IT leaders have formed their own groups based on industries, job duties, technologies or shared professional interests. Groups are a key component in what makes LinkedIn a valuable site for professionals.

Facebook users also have the ability to form their own groups, as well as create their own branded pages. Pages are also used by companies to promote their brands, connect with customers, and engage in other activities that might be of use to the average firm. Individual users can "like" certain pages, but the best "group" scenarios involve communicating with friends.

Twitter allows users to create lists that let them group together tweets from certain people. However, the functionality of these lists is limited compared with what can be accomplished in a LinkedIn Group. That might be an issue for some CIOs who want to communicate privately with select users. Twitter lists are ideal for those who want to narrow down certain updates.

Promotional Opportunities

A number of promotional opportunities are available on LinkedIn. Companies use the site to advertise job opportunities. Professionals likewise use the site to invite career opportunities, business partnerships, and valuable self-promotion.

When it comes to professional networking, Facebook doesn't afford you the same level of individual opportunities as LinkedIn. However, corporate brands are finding success building their own pages and advertising on the site. If you would like to promote yourself professionally on Facebook, consider "friending" only people that are in your social circle. Just as importantly, be sure to update your status with pertinent messages and add important career details to your profile.

Twitter is arguably the hardest tool to use for self-promotion. The service doesn't offer a full-fledged profile page that would help users gain a full understanding of your profession and your background. As with the minimalistic tweets, the space for your description on your profile page is restricted. However, if you tweet out informative updates to your followers, you can use the site to establish yourself as a knowledgeable source of worthwhile information. And that alone makes you more marketable.

Security Concerns 

While there have not been as many reports of cyber criminals targeting LinkedIn as there have been for the other two sites featured here, don't fool yourself. Use common sense and accept networking invitations only from those whom you know. Be conscious of the kind of information you're sharing, and make sure it doesn't violate any of your company's policies.

Facebook has been facing some security issues over the last couple years as its popularity continues to rise. The social network's users have been the target of phishing scams, as well as malware attacks. In addition, hackers have been known to try and take over user accounts. Keep all that in mind before you decide to jump into one social network or another.

Twitter has been the target of phishing scams as more and more people join the site and share links. In addition, many fake accounts are on the site with the sole purpose of spamming user accounts. And as always, be sure that your credentials are not being put at risk.

Privacy Concerns

Overall, the privacy concerns related to LinkedIn are equally as disconcerting as any other social network. If you share personal information on the site, it can potentially be accessed by the wrong people. Luckily, LinkedIn lets you lock down your profile quite well to minimize the potential privacy issues that might occur.

Facebook has come under fire from critics who say that the social network has not done enough over the years to ensure that the privacy of its users' profile information is at safe levels. Last year, it unveiled several privacy controls to ameliorate some of these concerns, but critics say the policies are confusing to most users.

Twitter users don't necessarily need to worry about the same privacy issues of others, since profile information is not as detailed as on other social networks. Moreover, the site allows users to make their profiles private, which helps ensure that privacy is kept to a maximum. If it's privacy a user is after, Twitter is arguably the best option.

Professional Membership

Quite high. As a business-networking site, professionals are all over LinkedIn.

 

Quite high, though they might be hard to find. Facebook has more than 500 million users, and many of them are professionals. They simply might be using the site for other purposes.

Quite high, though they might be hard to find. Twitter has millions of users, and many of them are professionals. They simply might be using the site for other purposes. And the limited search functionality of the site makes it tricky to find others with common interests.

Mobile Usability

LinkedIn is available on multiple mobile operating platforms, including the iPhone iOS, BlackBerry, Android, and Palm products.

Facebook's app is available on several mobile platforms, including the iPhone, Android-based devices, and BlackBerry.

There are several Twitter apps, including one from the social network, available to the iPhone, Android handsets, and BlackBerry devices.

Number of Users

 

More than 100 million

More than 500 million

More than 250 million

 

 Source: CIO Insight, May 2011