My generation has proven itself to be suckers for online social networks.

I’d venture to say that it’s not uncommon for Internet browsers of a certain age to spread a good amount of their day surfing from MySpace, to Facebook, to YouTube, and back again. And that’s to say nothing of the now-unfashionable virtual networks of the past, from ICQ conversants to Friendster users.

The line between social and professional networking on the Internet remains a somewhat muddy one, though, like MySpace for the former category, a victor seems to have risen for the latter.

While a huge number of job-posting sites are competing in any number of niche categories, and the major posting providers continue to duke it out amongst themselves, LinkedIn appears to have won the battle for positioning itself as the place to connect with like-minded professionals.  At least for now.

All things are cyclical, but amazingly, it’s just within the past six months that references to LinkedIn keep cropping up in my life. The company has been around for ages, and I’ve had a mostly dusty profile on the site since 2003, but a conversation with a couple of co-workers persuaded me to at least update my profile’s basics -- including my current city and employer. Much like when I signed up for MySpace, I was amazed at a couple of the random re-connections I made within a week, and it seemed like soon stories of other people’s success on the site continued to find its way to me.

And so it was with some bemusement that I read a recent account in the Los Angeles Times about LinkedIn Corp.’s pursuit of a new chief executive.

Apparently, the company’s chairman, Reid Hoffman, had been looking for a new CEO, when a venture capitalist recommended Dan Nye, an executive vice president at Advent Software Inc.
Nye, 40, had a detailed profile on LinkedIn, outlining a career spent with Advent, Intuit Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. Hoffman decided to bring Nye in for an interview last fall, the first of many.

In the meantime, Hoffman began researching Nye through LinkedIn, running the names of the companies where Nye had worked and the years he was there to find dozens of people whose time had overlapped with the prospective hire. In all, Hoffman said that he talked with 27 of Nye’s former colleagues, and not once during the entire process was Nye ever asked to produce a resume, or a reference. In fact, it wasn’t until after he was hired that Nye learned the full extent of Hoffman’s LinkedIn footwork.

"I found out that really good people like working for Dan," Hoffman told the paper. "It was important to me that A-plus talent would want to work with him."

So it’s a happy story for LinkedIn, and surely a PR dream for whoever was in charge of pitching the story, but just like any number of dating and promotional sites, it’s all comes down to how effectively the online tool is used.

Consultant Guy Kawasaki posted a good couple of thoughts on his blog this past January for people interested in rebranding themselves on the site, and many of those thoughts are applicable to anyone who wants to boost their image on the Internet. His, “LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover,” is available at http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/linkedin_profil.html, while his rundown of, “Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn,” is available at http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html.


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