Some comparison thoughts, inspired by questions from Charles Apple of the Virginian-Pilot, as journalists explore social networking tools.
I recall trying to explain LinkedIn to a well-educated, very busy college teacher and mom. She bought in to the idea after I said you don't have to do anything, just show up.
That's the beauty of LinkedIn; you don't have to DO anything; just come to the party. Friends will find you. Some really good long-term friends might take weeks to accept your LinkedIn request, but eventually, they buy in. Some of these folks might be your most interesting friends, who actually have lives and don't stare at a screen any more than they have to.
Facebook feels different. It has so many bells and whistles that you feel as if you have to DO something. Of course, you don't have to buy into the hype; you can just show up, hang out, and sooner or later its functionality might lure you in.
Facebook LOOKS different. People will judge you by the appearance of your friends. Recently I checked out the friends of a person promoting a conference.
White male. White male. White male. White male.
I get a good idea what the conference will be like.
Think about it. REALLY think about yourself, and who you're hanging out with. I suspect few of us non-white-male folks want to be tokens, but we do judge others by the diversity of their friends. And the visual power of Facebook amplifies that.
(Self-analysis disclaimer and plea: All my white male friends, please don't take this personally. And I admit that the social divide of the entire pool of people on Facebook might skew results. It skews mine. I claim extra credit, as a FB friend said, for having friends with pets as their personal photos. And maybe Simpson characters).
Over the years, I've enjoyed analyzing the faces we publish in our regional publications of the young All-Star Scholars in our public schools. In some regions, their diversity has exploded. Non-white, non-male young people are succeeding academically. Especially non-male (and don't get me off on a tangent about maintaining gender balance in colleges....).
A group of faces tells us viscerally, quickly, emotionally, what's going on in that group. Facebook has the power to help us ponder what that says about ourselves.
Ideas on Facebook and business from Scott Karp:
The problem of friends.
Facebook for business.