The focus of this article is on which is the better for keeping and establishing professional contacts. Taking this to its logical conclusion (for this blog, at any rate) I thought it might be useful to pit the two against each other for the purposes of finding journalistic contacts.
So... let’s say we are after an expert to pass comment on James Whale‘s attempts to influence the public during last week’s Mayoral Election, through comments made during his radio show on Talksport (for which he quite rightly got the tin-tac). We’re after an expert on media impartiality, or political influence on the media.
LinkedIn for the unfamiliar amongst you, is a social networking site aimed at the professional community – for those seeking contacts and jobs in their industries. Although there’s a heavy US presence in it’s userbase, LinkedIn contains a fair number of UK-based professionals. You have to register, and users can hide their private details, albeit LinkedIn results can be retrieved in Google.
Once you’re logged in, you can search the site by name or keyword (see the drop-down top-right). I had a play, then settled on a search with the following string:
media political influence UK
It returned 2 results (be aware that if you are searching generic terms, you will only have 20 results returned, and will have to upgrade via your wallet for the privilege of seeing the rest). Both results are poor though. The second albeit a New Media Consultant, was returned only on account of his PhD Thesis, concerning the ‘influence’ of Danish culture on Balanese art.
Running the same search in Facebook brought back 5 groups, the first of which is a collection of people who extol The BBC’s political neutrality(!) But there was also a group called The Digital Influence Index, a PR firm who work in the field of digital media and influence.
So at face value, it should be said that Facebook wins this one.
But getting back to LinkedIn, lets take this issue and reverse it. Stewart Purvis is an expert in this field – he has written a fair bit on impartiality in the UK media. But let’s assume I don’t know this – how would I find him on LinkedIn if I were browsing for him by his specialisms?
He’s there alright, but his profile is bare bones – there’s no mention of the fields he is expert in.
Which encapsulates perfectly the problem with using sources like this, which rely on users having the time and inclination to fully explain who they are and what they do. Purvis’s reputation will no doubt precede him amongst the contacts he wishes to establish through the site – so why bother filling out the blanks? Moreover, it would be quite wrong to assume that everyone in social networks like this will welcome the advances of the media (albeit they can state as such in their profiles).
But I would end by saying that sourcing your contributors by social networks will undoubtedly get easier. Afterall, the more people who get involved, the greater the chance of making contact…