I have noticed that LinkedIn has been becoming more popular in occupational therapy circles recently, as people seemed to be inviting me to connect with them, and I could see that they were new to LinkedIn but getting involved quickly. My contacts rose sharply in the past few months from about 20 to over 80 contacts, with little or no effort on my part.
So, what is the difference between Facebook and LinkedIn?
For me Facebook is a place to be social with friends, family and colleagues. In Facebook I connect and share information relevant to occupational therapy but I also share information about my home and leisure life. I have my own profile and am a member of many groups that represent the many facets of my life. I am able to “like” people, places and products, and share photos of life as it happens…
LinkedIn is different from Facebook in many ways. Firstly, LinkedIn was set up as a business networking tool, not a social networking tool, so it is designed for users to input information about their professional self. Secondly, LinkedIn has strict rules about connecting to others. The program asks you how you know a person before it lets you connect with them, ie: it is not designed for you to “friend a stranger”, it is designed for you to connect with people you already know, or to be introduced to people with whom you have mutual connections. Thirdly, LinkedIn is not interested in “what you are doing right now”, its purpose is to be an online space to develop a profile, where you can upload resources you have developed, include testimonials and join professional discussion groups on topics of your choice.
LinkedIn has 100 million users and Facebook has 500 million users, so right now you have a larger body of people in Facebook who to participate in conversations with. LinkedIn is starting to develop more as an asynchronous discussion space, but not yet at the level that Facebook has achieved.
So, what do OTs use LinkedIn for? In a poll using Facebook I asked OT contacts what they use LinkedIn for. The picture here is a “screen shot” of the answers, with a summary on the left.
The results of my Facebook poll which had responses from 52 people (number responding to each category of question in brackets)
- To build my business/professional network (20)
- I don’t really/Don’t use LinkedIn (15)
- To share professional profile tools (blog, portfolio) (3)
- To recommend others (2)
- Keep up to date in my network’s role/job (1 vote)
- To get recommended by others (1)
- Still working out its usefulness/still finding out about it (1)
What do these results mean? It appears that among my Facebook contact group LinkedIn is still a novel online tool which some are using effectively, but most are just becoming aware of. The Technology Acceptance Model (Davis et al., 1989) suggests that technology must be both useful and easy to use in order for people to be willing to adopt it. Perhaps LinkedIn is perceived as not as easy to use as Facebook and therefore not as useful for making quick connections in our rapidly developing online OT world.
The questions I pose are:
- In what ways is LinkedIn potentially more useful than Facebook to occupational therapists?
- What are the benefits if we build profiles in each of these online spaces?
- Can LinkedIn be used as a tool to demonstrate ongoing professional development?