Your Facebook 'Friend' May Want a Favor

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With 175 million members and counting, Facebook is so firmly entrenched in so many lives that the time has come to start asking the tough questions: What's Facebook really for? And how can Facebook help with your career?

Soumitra Dutta and Matthew Fraser are starting this conversation at The McKinsey Quarterly by taking a look at how to differentiate between the career-oriented networking of LinkedIn and the more social networking of Facebook.

With so many people stampeding into Web-based social networks, the line between social and business networking is becoming increasingly blurred. An important question is whether the values and codes of conduct specific to the virtual world will come into conflict with real-world values and norms. Facebook, where the idea of a "friend" is directly embedded in the interface, is increasingly cluttered with self-promoters, career artists, and marketing entrepreneurs. What happens as this trend intensifies and those using Facebook exclusively for career networking invade?

As one sociologist puts it, "Individuals engage in interactions and networking in order to produce profits." In other words, your Facebook friends may ultimately want something from you, but it may be ill-advised to mix business networking with social interaction in the Facebook world. (That leads to the question of whether Facebook will ever launch some kind of "pro" version that would be designed to be a LinkedIn killer.

The overall advice from the writers of the article:

Generally, it's more advisable to approach social networking as a giver, not a taker, and gradually build relationships according to reciprocated favors. Overall, online social networking, with its support groups and trusted access, is governed by a culture of sharing, not selling.

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