An Analysis of Social Networking Sites

I know a large number of “experts” (and also experts) have done analysis on social networking sites. One of my team members is doing an analysis for recruiting. Right now, he’s planning on looking into LinkedIn, Orkut, MySpace, Facebook and Xing. I know there’s some popular wisdom out there regarding what the best sites are, but at the same time, all kinds of people are twittering and I think it’s a colossal waste of time (sorry, twitterers). I just don’t care what people are grocery shopping for.

Anyway, I wanted to ask what sites you feel are the best for making connections (whether there’s an implied business connection like on LinkedIn or at least a social connection with enough profile data to be used for business purposes like the employment section of Facebook profiles). Any ideas of what else we should be looking at? Any existing analysis or white papers that you found impressive or informative?

Totally self-serving, I know, but a girl’s got to use her blog for herself sometimes.

Comments (24)

  1. Paul Ballard says:

    Back when the world was young and Microsoft was just some upstart working on OS/2 (circa 1989) I worked for a company called Easel Corporation.  This company developed a 4GL language for DOS, OS/2, and eventually even Windows before getting their collective butt’s kicked by PowerBuilder.  I left the company in 1991 and the company ceased to exist around 1994 if memory serves.

    In the past month or so, literally dozens of my former colleagues have reconnected on LinkedIn.  I’ve emailed people in the past week that I haven’t communicated with in more than 10 years and its great.

    P.S.  I also think twitter is useless and based on most people’s fundamental belief that every minute aspect of their lives are incredibly interesting.   Those people are wrong.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul – you are confirming my thoughts on LinkedIn. Only problem with it is that it’s not particualrly social in and of itself. You connect but most of the conversations happen outside of LinkedIn.

    And Twitter….my thoughts exactly. I know and like some people that are twittering right now and I keep thinking "what are you doing? why?!". Hopefully it’s just a fad and people will realize that they arnent so important that we all need to know what they are doing at any given moment. Besides, isn’t it kind of a paradox anyway?

  3. Jason Davis says:

    Make sure if you are looking to hire recruiters, you don’t ever check heather.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’m not looking to hire recruiters. Our analysis is mostly focused on tech, marketing, sales, services and IT.

    We are really looking at the big, non-industry-specific social networking tools; not industry specific communities.

    But nice link drop πŸ˜‰

  5. Kerry says:

    We are doing a lot these days on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and our new blog.  We sent out an email inviting our contacts to join our groups.  In less than 3 days we went from 25 to 250+ LinkedIn members – YouTube also increase by about the same percentage.  Our blog traffic went from about 50 to over 500 as well. Our Facebook Page fans however went from 6 to only 25 (now at about 33).   I think people are cautious on Facebook – maybe their profiles are not as professional as they should be – maybe they want to keep the personal and professional networking separate – not sure.   I’m looking forward to reading other responses…

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, facebook is a curiosity. I created a career interest group and still figuring out how to use it. I have some ideas though. Hearing your feedback is helpful. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. John says:

    As a user and not someone who’s trying to do any hiring, I think that Facebook works better than LinkedIn and that will eventually prove true for hiring.

    I’m of the opinion that people are still learning to use Facebook in ways that make it more then just a fancy version of Twitter. I’ve been taking baby steps with Facebook to try make the world a little more sortable. My general goal is to end up knowing more people who share my interests and meet people who have interests that I might want to investigate or adopt.

    Given the nature of business relationships, I don’t think that LinkedIn is going to be able to capture enough information to make this complex sorting possible or worthwhile for the average user. Plus, LinkedIn is really public, which for me creates a narrow way in which I’m going to feel comfortable using it.

    By contrast, Facebook and the associated applications capture as much or as little information as I want to provide. Applications like StuffCloud have helped me meet people that I would *literally* never run across any other way.

    Beyond the smaller groups contained within Facebook, it’ll be more focused groups that center on exclusivity, industries, sectors, alumni associations and the like that’ll be important. An example of this is Doostang, which gets around some of the trust issues raised by a public forum by requiring multiple invites for people to join.

    In short, LinkedIn reduces my complexities to a semi-usable product for both me and potential employers while Facebook allows me to create intensely personalized networks. Harnessed creativity beats static profiles every time.

  8. Heather, there is no single solution

    – Use LinkedIn to get the professional context (Xing in other regions, e.g. Germany, Spain …)

    – Use Facebook or Plaxo to learn about the human/ socialize

    – Use Twitter to jump into the crowd

    My two cents, Harald

  9. gautam ghosh says:

    ah, did you forget ?


  10. I recruit IT professionals and have used MySpace to develop relationships first before being a recruiter.

    If you have information to share, like employment statistics, company news, industry links, etc. you are adding  value.

    On MySpace:

    -Click "Search"

    -Scroll the 3rd option "Search Profiles for People With Similar Career Interests"

    -Fill in the blanks for who you are seeking.

    From those results you can search by postal code/miles, men/women, and age.

    This works for Marketing (sales is listed under Marketing) and Technology folks who have clicked "Networking" as one of their purposes for being on MySpace.

    This has worked very well for more than 2 years as a networking, marketing/branding, and recruiting tool.

  11. Bonus:

    Go to Google:


    -Add keywords

    Results will include those with private profiles

    Keywords can include acronyms, company names, etc.

    This will return a some what different response than the above option. More results but not necessarily on MySpace for networking.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    John – don’t get me started on twitter. Arrrggghh. I’m easily annoyed! I still think LinkedIn is incredibly helpful just in terms of putting together names, titles and workplaces. We will add Doostang to the list. I get requests and I think I have a password but don’t see much there. Worth checking out.

    Harald – Twitter? OK, please explain the "jump into the crowd thing". Aside from learning what kind of breakfast cereal someone prefers, there’s some kind of work related application?

    Gautam – uh, no. Just looking for things that work for us and I believe that we have tried that one!

    MN/Paul – thanks for the tips!

  13. gautam ghosh says:

    Twitter has helped me in business development of our consulting services… It’s evolving from personal information sharing to business information sharing too πŸ™‚

  14. gautam ghosh says:

    Some examples on how people are using twitter for business and professional uses


  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    thanks for the info Gautam

  16. Ben says:

    IMO, these sites are best used for sourcing purposes.  Any source that provides me a name, a title, a company and a location gives me all I need.  I can make a call from there, or if the prospect is open to it (and they’ll tell you on LinkedIn), I can contact them directly through the social networking platform.  LinkedIn Groups and Facebook Groups are good for building relationships, particularly with those you already have connections too (i.e. I just created an alumni group for our firm on LinkedIn).

    Still trying to figure out recruiting uses for Plaxo, MySpace isn’t really the right platform for us (at least for now), and don’t know much about Twitter.

    One thing you didn’t mention, and I’m interested in exploring is creating your own networks.  Ning offers some interesting possibilities.

  17. Heather,

    I was just introduced to a linkedin but you can do searches w/o be in a person’s network..It’s actually scary the kind of information it has and the corporate logs of employees it lists.

  18. Rob McIntosh says:

    Heather – Interesting research project and I would be curious to see what you come up with. I asked a similar question on LinkedIn

    "LinkedIn as a source of hire…….Hype or Helpful?"

    (Sorry I do not use Tiny URL)

    Net/net is from the data that people have given me so far, while LinkedIn and social networking sites are starting to morph into job boards, I still do not see that the results (maybe a few % of your hiring numbers) warrants the frothing at the mouth I see with some recruiters when talking about them as a source of candidates.

    Not advocating that you do not spend some time there, but at this stage I would not put to many eggs in this basket unless you want to either leverage as a potential PR tool or give the impression to your hiring manger that your hip to the latest recruiting techniques.

    Personally I think social networking sites are passé and we have moved onto cool tools like twitter….Not! πŸ˜‰


  19. Rob McIntosh says:

    Oooh, I forgot.

    For the uber list of social networking sites that everyone can join and spend all day accepting invitations and then bragging how big their network is, this list on Wikipedia is frequently updated

  20. Ben says:

    Rob’s hatin’ social networking again :-/

    Take these sites for what they are.  A means of identifying prospects, building relationships, and establishing a brand with TENS OF MILLIONS of people.

    Is social networking the ‘silver bullet’ of recruiting?  Of course not.  But they are a critical tool in any recruiter’s or sourcer’s toolkit today.

  21. Ben says:

    One more thing.  Rob, you are correct that these sites should not be overhyped, nor do they replace core recruiting skills.  I also tend to disagree with the ‘open networking’ mentality of many on these sites.

    That said, there is value there, you can’t ignore it, and we are still just in the infancy of online social networking.  For as many recruiters that beat-the-drum about how great these sites are, there are many times more that barely touch these sites or have a clue how to use them.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Michael – the issue with spoke, I think is the relative number of people on it. But I like the idea.

    Rob – we aren’t planning on publishing what we come up with. LinkedIn has been significant for us. So I am going to have to issmiss the idea that it isn’t worth the effort. So far, for us, it very much has been.

    Ben – I’m going to have to agree with you. They are pretty simple to use to get name, title and contact info and for that, they are quite useful. I won’t share numbers, but on my team, social networking (from blogging to linkedin) has had a significant impact. I think think where people struggle with social networking is when they lack the understanding of(or creativity to figure out) how to use them. You have to see what is there and then start to think about how it fits into your core work, versus arriving at a site and expecting your recruiting challenges to be solved. People get distracted by new technology and it leads them down an unproductive path. But when people can see what’s there and effectively leverage it for work they are already doing (name gen, for example), that’s where there’s a huge benefit.

    I also think there’s a benefit in terms of content delivery and community building but that’s less clear cut. It’s been on my mind lately, especailly with regard to facebook.  I personally haven’t had the time to explore some of the smaller players yet.