Facebook and LinkedIn have a lot in common. They are both well-known social media sites, they both had very famous IPOs and they both allow users to share about themselves while keeping up with the people in their networks. It’s also a fact that they are both working hard to monetize the huge social worlds that they have built.

Monetization for both of these social networks essentially means selling access to or data about the people in their networks. In a social-network acceptable way, of course. I’m betting both networks will figure it out, although there will be some bumps along the learning curve.

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Facebook seems to have garnered more headlines over the past few years and has many more users than does LinkedIn. Early on, Facebook was considered an innovative social town square while LinkedIn was an online resume site. Hype was heaped on Facebook, while LinkedIn silently gained traction.

For business to business marketing, LinkedIn is the clear winner. They have steadily evolved their tools and had a very successful IPO. As I write this, they are the cover story on Fortune magazine, certainly an indication of the important role they play as the master connector between professionals. Fortune reports they have 141 million monthly users, a 37% increase over last year.

As a B2B marketer, I have purchased data on businesses and decision makers within those businesses for my whole career. The lists are, and have always been, glaring poor. We all understand the difficulty of the task. Businesses change names, move, merge, close and evolve and never notify the keepers of the data. People within the business likewise move around, change jobs, responsibilities and so on and the data keepers have never kept up.

The advent of the internet spawned some data aggregators who claimed they could harvest data from websites, press releases, articles and other public sources that would be more up to date. While an interesting concept, the execution was dismal. One of those firms listed me as a Vice President at Compaq Computer. I’ve never worked for Compaq Computer. However, Compaq was an investor in a dot-com startup where I was a VP, so I understand the connection. For B2B marketing purposes however, that would be a failure.

As I look at my own LinkedIn network, I imagine the targeting a savvy B2B marketer could do, given the wealth of data on each person’s profile. Already, LinkedIn has changed the executive recruiting world. Many top recruiting firms have abandoned their once-revered internal databases in favor of subscribing to LinkedIn’s recruiter tools. Internal recruiters have followed suit with 88 of the Fortune 100 using the tools for their own recruiting needs.

Fortune Reports that LinkedIn is working with NetSuite, on a sales product that looks at potential customers’ social networks. I expect more of this in the future as LinkedIn develops the tools for B2B firms to meet new customers, in a socially acceptable way.

Does your company use LinkedIn to help identify and understand future customers? How do you feel as a LinkedIn user when you are targeted with marketing messages?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

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