Like many, I’ve been skeptical of past efforts to put a professional social network layer on top of Facebook. Sure, Facebook has the potential to be a player in professional networking. But I’m skeptical, because past efforts (like those from BranchOut) weren’t enough to reach the critical mass needed to ultimately rival LinkedIn’s already established leadership.
However, Wednesday’s news of a jobs-listing app is Facebook’s first professional-networking attempt that merits some attention. The app is borne out of a partnership among Facebook, the U.S. Department of Labor, and professional networking apps like BranchOut as well as others.
So why does it deserve attention? Because while jobs listings aren’t exactly the heart of a professional social network, they are a requirement of such an effort. The sheer number of jobs listings show there is enough scale to draw significant attention from job seekers on Facebook.
Like I said, it’s a start, and from what I can tell, it’s one that still needs work. Facebook is merely acting as a front-end search UI for apps listed through its partners, and clicking through a casual search of listings resulted in mainly error messages. Granted, that was on launch day, but the integration to partner data doesn’t appear to be as tight as it needs to be to keep users from going directly to the partner’s search interfaces after a few failed attempts.
Long term, Facebook needs to do more to allow professionals to interact with one another, an area where LinkedIn already leads. Some of the foundations are there — such as a robust group and discussion capability — but they still need significant work to entice those addicted to LinkedIn to start to invest in Facebook as a professional-networking platform.
Perhaps the bigger issue for Facebook is the simple fact that many people want to separate their personal and social lives. What we say on Facebook often isn’t what we want to present to our professional connections, and this alone may keep Facebook from ever being a serious competitor to LinkedIn.