Facebook first came into my life during my second week of college. Facebook had just been expanded from a Harvard-only circle jerk to include a few other select schools. I was a freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angel-suck, when Facebook graciously allowed LMU to join in their little cyber world. And join we did, because at that time Facebook was still brand new. Hipsters had not yet started “boycotting Facebook” to prove some false sense of street-cred. All of that would come later; long after the addiction of keeping Facebook tabs on people that were mean to us in high school had become the established norm.
I still remember the day I first joined the world of social media. I was, as usual, hanging out in my friend Megan’s dorm room when her very intense roommate came bounding in to tell us all about this “hella” cool new website, The Facebook (the offending “The” would later be dropped faster than a one night stand during parents’ weekend).
Megan and I exchanged suspicious glances while her roommate spoke with great animation about the wonders of this new Face-Something. This particular girl’s credibility with us was quite low, seeing as she had plastered Megan’s dorm room with ugly Eiffel Tower figurines and Parisian graphics (despite no connection to France or French culture).
But with curiosity piqued, Megan and I huddled around her laptop and clicked on the fateful words that would change our lives forever: sign up now.
So when I (insert old Grandpa voice here) first joined “The Facebook” it was literally just a bunch of profile pages with people listing their interests and activities. Quite frankly, it was boring. I still remember thinking, “who seriously cares that so-and-so’s favorite movie is Free Willy?” At that time there was no wall, no status updates (those gems of poetry that would later provide so much unintentional comedic fodder), and no photo albums.
The only thing “The Facebook” really had going for it was the relationship status info which helped my friends and I determine which cute guys were single, and which were in doomed college long-distance relationships we could potentially sabotage.
Looking back though, “The Facebook” set the tone for Facebook as we now know and love it. From Facebook’s humble beginnings my generation was taught such valuable lessons as to 1) never trust a flattering profile picture and 2) how to stalk significant others’ exes as a matter of principle. Because of the advent of Facebook, social media will never be quite the same.
Thanks to Facebook, my generation has literally grown up with social media in tow. In college we posted party pictures and statuses about getting drunk. We were awed when couples boldly declared themselves “Facebook Official.” We regularly added new vocabulary to our everyday lives: tagged, detagged, facebook fakeout, facebook stalking, defriended, friended.
But as we have gotten older, Generation Y’s facebook profiles have slowly had to change and mature with us. Our profiles, once shrines to awesome parties, have now become pages with limited information and family reunion/ “risqué” Sunday brunch pictures available to view. And I’m guilty of this too.
When I was 19 almost half my friends had their favorite quote listed as, “To nights we’ll never remember, with friends we’ll never forget.” At 25 most of my friends now have some quote from Gandhi, if they even bother to fill in a quote at all. I think I have a quote from Emerson and Helen Keller. Whatever happened to listing getting blackout drunk as an interest or activity? When did everyone and everything get so serious?
And this is where LinkedIn is missing a golden opportunity to grow with the first Facebook kids into adulthood. LinkedIn, for readers not familiar with the website, is basically what Facebook was when I first joined it as a college freshman…but with a professional emphasis.
I know. Could there be a more boring premise?
But the thing is, LinkedIn could be the bridge between our party shrines and Helen Keller quotes. It could be the Rufio to our Peter Pan-less Neverland.
LinkedIn should be trying to fill in a gap sorely needed for young graduates in the present economy. But instead LinkedIn ironically isn’t “linked in” with what users really need. LinkedIn is basically a glorified business card right now, and maybe even less convenient to use.
So here’s my suggestions to LinkedIn:
• Be proactive about the LinkedIn brand, while there is an open market for a serious professional networking tool. Facebook is still primarily a social outlet; it hasn’t yet corned the market on professional marketing. (And I say yet because I saw that movie about the evil geniuses behind Facebook…its only a matter of time, LinkedIn). Twitter should not be discounted in this race too, with its easy to access and up-to-date job listings.
• Reach out to event organizers such as Speed Networking that arrange networking lunches (like speed dating, but with no goodnight kiss pressure) in cities across America. Alert clients with interests in a certain field about such easy networking opportunities.
• Take a real interest in your users. If they list themselves as actively looking for employment, what are YOU doing to make their job hunt easier? Such engagement will bring users consistently back to your website.
• Oh, and don’t try to make users pay for a beefed up version of your service. That’s just lame.
If you would like to leave any further thoughts or tips about how LinkedIn can begin to live up to its name, please see the comments section below. In the meantime you can find me on LinkedIn here. I’ll be the one with the awesome Helen Keller quote and a sweet picture from last Sunday’s brunch.