LinkedIn and Facebook – blurred lines or distinct differences?

LinkedIn is not Facebook – what are we sharing with others, and why?

I enjoyed reading an opinion piece on LinkedIn recently “LinkedIn is not Facebook” by Cesar D R Vieira which he posted on LinkedIn.  The lines have certainly blurred in terms of type of content shared between the two platforms and it forces us to constantly reconsider how we appear on each platform.

What are we sharing with others, and why?

One of the problems with LinkedIn I find is that I’m connected with over 1000 people, many of whom I don’t know and many of whom I probably don’t want to.  It’s just kind of happened – perhaps some days I’ve clicked ‘accept’ just to clear the notification off my screen while I get on with something else (which speaks volumes about how mindless some online activities really are!)
In my mind, LinkedIn is like walking into a networking event that you’re not sure you want to be at, all front and no substance.  You’ve practiced your elevator pitch (“lift pitch” doesn’t have the same ring does it?), everyone is smiling with their faces, not their eyes, 90% of the people in the room are there to sell you something and most are after a free lunch.

It’s false and stilted and I often get the same feeling on LinkedIn.


Facebook, by stark contrast, is where you can show pictures of your babies, dogs, cats, creative projects and hobbies and basically tell your friends all about what’s going on in your life.  We want to know whose wedding you’ve been to and what you did at the weekend.  There’s a big difference between the platforms.

Real friends don’t mind seeing pictures your kids have drawn.  These friends have seen you through your worst hangovers, occasionally peeping out from your duvet that you dragged down to the sofa while you all dissect what happened last night. (Sorry girls, you know who you are).  Real friends have cried with you at breastfeeding support group.  You know what each other likes to eat and drink.
It’s likely that this isn’t true of your LinkedIn contacts, unless you have a heavy social life with your colleagues, and let’s face it, if you sit next to them at your desk, why would you be connected on LinkedIn?  Would it be true to say that LinkedIn is your professional self, whereas Facebook is your home life self?

Keep the lines distinct

There’s a massive difference in how people use the networks.  When you consider who you’re connected with, that difference ought to stay intact.  When real life encroaches on that false networking event, it becomes really weird for people.

We have to make these constant decisions about who we are, how we want to appear, how much we want to stay private, to what extent we want things to be public and how much control we have over what.  It’s not easy!  We’re all just working it out.  Which brings me onto values.

Values blur the lines

How do we truly connect with others?  Whether we’re being friends with someone or establishing a business relationship, one thing that ties us all is values.  We won’t last long with anyone who has opposing values – and any relationship with others helps us to define who we are.  Does that person, business or brand reflect back our core values?  If not, we choose how to represent our differences, whether we quietly slip away from that person, calmly state an opposing viewpoint, fight back in anger, or choose to make open statements about our own version of events.

This is played out personally and globally, all the time.

Tuckman’s model of group formation

People are working out and establishing their values – the internet provides a public forum in which we are all engaged in this activity.  Online behaviour reminds me of Tuckman’s (1965) model of group formation, played out online.  Tuckman’s model is the act of forming–storming–norming–performing (the behaviour of groups as they come together) and it’s not too far away from what we are all constantly participating in on social media.

We decide who we are, create our words, images, videos, etc. and we hit publish… then comes the wait for feedback.  The storming may be literal storms, in the form of negative feedback.  We get sent the signal not to do that again.  We didn’t uphold the values of the masses.

We are then invited to consider, to what extent do we stand by our own values and to what extent do we go back to the drawing board and re-norm and re-form with others?

Those individuals and companies who are hitting the nail on the head with their online messages, consistently producing content that is highly rated, they’re at the point of performing.

Values based content is how we tell people who we are and what we stand for.  How else do we attract the right people to ourselves and keep out the ones who are diametrically opposed to us?

Audience. Who is this all for?

The author of the article that sparked mine, Cesar, said:

“Considering the true power of today’s various social networks and the variety of people who use them, it is important that one safeguards the perception that is given to others when they are looking in from outside.”

This I agree with, however, there are 2 ways to look at content production.  Is 100% of what you put online all about “the other”?  Is everything about another’s perception?  Or is some of it what you wanted to create, for yourself?  I think we need to consider the position of the creator, the originator.  Without original creative thought, what are we?  Do we all become “what we’d like others to think of us?”

How boring would that be?  The future would be a bleak place if we all stayed within narrow boundaries and made no shifts, no forward movement, nothing new.

It all boils down to choices that we make.  We have freedom to say and produce and publish exactly what we want.  Until we don’t.  Something changes, and then we choose again.  We are all engaged in this process.

In considering audience, I realised why I rarely post on LinkedIn.  I’ve come to view it as a platform with a façade – that’s a value I don’t share.  I use it in my role “as” other companies therefore to me it is in my brain  category ‘work’.  And it was a great reminder to clear up my connections list since many of the people are those I don’t know.

Cesar’s viewpoint here is very good:

“LinkedIn is still a professional networking tool which should be used to facilitate career growth, finding opportunities, networking and keeping up to date with the ever changing markets.”

Those working in traditional highly corporate environments will have different professional values to those working in more creative, modern values-driven businesses.  Those differences demand different language and content to be shared.  I think this topic brings up wider conflicts of values about the way business is done. 

In the end, we’re all just working out our positioning. 

I’ll leave you with a couple of questions:
  1. Do you have a clear distinction over what you share on each platform?
  2. Have you thought about what you’re sharing, why and with whom?