What is the value of LinkedIn over Facebook in business? Is there a difference? When do you use one or the other or both? In writing our book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, Barb Giamanco and I discovered that some businesses prefer LinkedIn; some prefer Facebook and some use neither. We decided to take a look at the two platforms to help you distinguish which is best for you.
As we’ve stated many times in the book, the ultimate decision about which social network to use lies with your company culture, goals and customer. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that you cannot choose “none of the above,” if you want to survive the new digital economy. Therefore, the question is which do we choose and how do we begin?

This post will help you begin to distinguish between the value of LinkedIn for business and the value of Facebook for business. In a previous article, I looked at Facebook vs. Twitter.

It helps to understand the evolution of these two platforms to get an idea of what works best for each. Facebook began as a social networking tool for college students. Launched in 2004 in response to MySpace which linked young people together throughout their high school years, Facebook targeted the student entering a college campus. In the early days it was a highly social network, similar to MySpace.

LinkedIn began, not as a social network, but as a business network. In contrast to Facebook, LinkedIn disallowed opportunities to post photo albums or to converse freely with the contacts. In the early days, the founders of LinkedIn saw an opportunity to create a social media site that was a little less “social” and a little more “professional."

Even though LinkedIn has expanded with applications to allow for many of the things we can do on Facebook and Twitter, it maintains its identity as a professional networking community. The restrictions for connection with people on LinkedIn are tighter than either Facebook or Twitter. Those restrictions have been loosened in recent years, but you still must say how you know a person before you can connect.

In the early days LinkedIn began as a job search resource whereas Facebook began as a social site for college students. Headhunters as well as human resource professionals used LinkedIn to identify potential candidates. LinkedIn still serves this purpose, but it has grown to be a lot more than a hotbed for people looking for jobs. A strong professional network of trusted connections gives you a career advantage. Furthermore, the ability to quickly gain access to information and resources in this global economy will give you a significant competitive edge. If you see LinkedIn as merely a place for job hunting, you’ve missed a lot!
Knowing how the two platforms began helps you understand the strengths of each and how you might best capitalize on those strengths.

Value of Facebook to Business:
• Primarily a social site. On Facebook you can share as much or as little personal information as you’d like. You can post photos of yourself and your family or of your company and employees. Facebook gives you an opportunity to create a personal as well as professional profile of who you are. People learn more about you as a person. In sales we talk about the know, like and trust factor before a sale is made. Businesses that focus on other businesses (B2B) as clients understand this factor. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to let down some barriers and help your business customer learn more about you. LinkedIn does not provide as much freedom for knowing the person beyond a "resume" like profile as Facebook does.
• Versatility. Facebook enables you to set up a personal profile, a professional profile, a business page or a fan page. You have all kinds of choices for putting yourself and your business in front of your customers. People like to feel part of a business. You can enable that by setting up a fan page for your business or for a unique product that you offer. LinkedIn only offers one type of profile.
• Facebook ads. For business Facebook gives you the opportunity to purchase a pay-for-click ad to target a unique niche. These ads are extremely cost effective because you only pay when someone clicks, and you can restrict how much you'll pay each given month.

Value of LinkedIn in Business
• Search Options. On LinkedIn if you have a significant number of followers, you can gain access to people in certain jobs, industries and/or groups that you would otherwise never have. Unlike Facebook which only allows you to search friends. LinkedIn lets you search for companies, jobs and answers to questions, as well as for people. For salespeople the ability to search companies and locate additional network connections within those companies gives you a competitive advantage over others not using LinkedIn to the fullest.
• Gain Expert Status or Credibility in your field. When LinkedIn began, the Question/Answer section of the site was a powerful place for you to showcase your knowledge. You could either post a question to the entire LinkedIn population or to segments of the network. You could answer questions other people posted. Many members answered questions and became experts in that area. Updated and expanded functions on LinkedIn enabled members to ask and answer questions within specific groups in which they are members. By becoming an active giver of information, you create credibility and trust with a wide range of people. Businesses who use this widely create visibility and credibility for their business. This is one of the most powerful uses of LinkedIn.
• Recommendation function. LinkedIn gives you a great opportunity to showcase the value of your features without advertising. Businesses who use the recommendation section wisely do just this. LinkedIn requires three recommendations to complete your profile. Many businesses place many more than three. We caution, however, to make sure your recommendations give an accurate picture of the value of your services. Think of them as LinkedIn's way to advertise.
• Visibility of Blog posts. Using one of the blog posting applications included with LinkedIn, you can publish your blog posts directly to your LinkedIn profile and to any and all of your groups. This feature enables you to give your blog much broader visibility across the LinkedIn network. Instead of merely posting your blog to your profile or on the status update as is the case with Facebook, you can post it to an unlimited number of groups within your profile and you can niche your blog posts. In my case, instead of posting to just 350 friends on Facebook, my blog post could go to 30,000+ people in my LinkedIn group network. Often, I don't send the post to all my groups, just those groups where I think there's an interest.

There are many more value differences between LinkedIn, Facebook and the other social networks. Ultimately, you must look at each platform and decide how you can create a social media strategy for your business.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Joan Curtis is a nationally known communications coach, certified by the International Coaches Federation. She has over 20 years experience as a trainer and educator. She has taught communication skills and presentation skills to leadership groups throughout the country
She is the author of two books: Managing Sticky Situations at Work: Communication Secrets for Success in the Workplace, which introduces the Say It Just Right Model of communication, and Strategic Interviewing: Skills and Tactics for Savvy Executives, which introduces the proprietary POINT process. She is under contract for her third book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media which explores the entire question of the social media.
Her web sites include: http://www.TotalCommunicationscoach.com and http://www.ManagingStickySituationsatWork.com and http://www.thenewhandshake.com