Facebook vs. LinkedIn: Which is better for business?

We test two top social networking sites with six business problems

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6. Keep track of former associates

It's been 10 years since you left your first job, and while you're pretty happy where you are, you can't help remembering how much you enjoyed working and hanging out with the other staffers there. You wonder what's happening with the old gang, how many of them are still at that company or have moved on. And anyway, it's not a bad idea to keep contact with people in your field who could give you a recommendation if you need one.

Facebook

This is why Facebook exists — not just to contact people you frequently talk to, but to catch up with old friends and associates. Tracking down old associates is about as easy as it gets. You can have Facebook scour through your Outlook, Thunderbird, Outlook Express or other e-mail software contacts, as well as contacts from your Web-based mail (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and many others) and from AOL Instant Messenger.

Facebook can scour through your e-mail contacts.

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Once you've assembled all your contacts, you can send friend invitations to your contacts who are on Facebook. To do it, choose Friends --> Invite Friends from the top of the Facebook screen and follow directions.

In addition, you can search for individual contacts on Facebook by typing names into the Search box. Even better, you can look through your friends' list of friends. After all, it's likely that there are plenty of people you've forgotten that you'd like to be in touch with, and here's the best way to find them.

Click on the names of each of your friends, and browse through their list of friends. When you see someone you want to be in touch with, click the Add to Friends link, and an invitation will be send to that person. Once you've invited a friend and they've accepted your invitation, you'll know what they're up to (as long as they update their Facebook Profiles, of course).

One more possibility: Look through all of the existing Facebook Networks for any former organizations for which you've worked by clicking Networks --> Join a Network, or Networks --> Browse All Networks.

One word of warning: In many instances, you'll need an e-mail address from the workplace if you want to join the network. However, there is a work-around. You can see the list of people on the network, even if you can't join it. Find your former company's network and click it. Then click Find Coworkers, and on the page that appears, don't type in a name, but instead leave the name blank and click Search for Coworkers. You'll then see a list of all the people in the network. When you see someone with whom you want to be in touch, click Add to Friends.

Oh, and by the way, if you're a LinkedIn member, you can find people you know from LinkedIn and invite them to be friends on Facebook if they're Facebook members. Go to the LinkedIn app, install it, follow the instructions, and you'll be ready to go. — Preston Gralla

LinkedIn

This is an area where LinkedIn shines. If you're looking for an old friend, you can always search for them by name and, if you find them, send a quick note and/or an invitation to join your network.

LinkedIn makes it easy to find former colleagues.

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It's even easier to find your colleagues from a former job or friends from school. You can click on either the Classmates or the Colleagues link to bring up a page with a list of the schools or companies in your profile. Once on that page, you can choose See All to find everyone on LinkedIn who was at the school or company the same time as you, or Find New to see who's joined since the last time you checked.

The search isn't foolproof. While working on this article, I searched for people who worked at Publish magazine when I was there and got hits for a guy who worked at Publish-Industry GmbH and a woman who worked at Publish-Ability. But I also found 15 people I had worked with, invited eight of them to join my network and so far three of them have accepted my invitation. And since I am now no more than two degrees of separation from everyone in their networks, there's no telling how many new connections I have. — Jake Widman

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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