Just this week LinkedIn launched InMaps, an interactive tool to help you visualize your professional network. Once you plug in your username and password, the site spits out colourful groupings of interconnected dots that represent your various connections. Depending on the size of a contact's network, the dots and fonts are bigger.
While I love a good visualization tool as much as the next Web geek, I'm not hooked on LinkedIn. I realize I am in one of two camps here. There are people such as my best friend who can be found only on LinkedIn. Facebook? She has no interest in Zuckerberg's baby. For her, she likes the business side of LinkedIn to maintain professional relationships. For me, I log into LinkedIn once in a while to approve requests, but I find myself at a loss insofar as what to do next.
This isn't to say that I don't appreciate the site. After all, they have more than 90 million members in more than 200 countries. Approximately two million of these users are here in Canada. Last week Bloomberg reported that the site is worth around $3-billion. For business-to-business networking, it's a valuable tool. When searching for a job, LinkedIn is an easy-to-use platform to showcase your work history and to seek out potential employers. It's also handy to find professional contacts who might be linked to one of your colleagues or friends.
However, if you're not doing any of those things and you're more of a "Chatty Cathy," (as one boss described me in San Francisco in the late 1990s), chances are you'll lean towards tools like Twitter and Facebook, which lend themselves to casual conversations. Also, if you like keeping in touch with friends and family, LinkedIn probably isn't the place to see your high school buddy's new baby photos or plan your Christmas party.
On the social side, LinkedIn has opened up over the past six months to enable real-time updates, which you can push out to sites such as Twitter. There are also new apps to manage Wordpress blogs, events, and even SlideShare presentations.
For now, I treat LinkedIn like going to the gym. I know I have to do it a few times a week to stay in (digital) shape. If I miss a week here and there, it's not the end of the world. I'm sure there are lots of you out there who have different experiences with LinkedIn. That's what the comments are for, so let me know what I'm missing.