As Facebook's millions of college users graduate, will they abandon the social network for something more "professional"? Or alternatively, will Facebook themselves develop features that make it more career orientated so that it can compete directly with vertical offerings such as LinkedIn?
Alex Iskold (over at Read/WriteWeb) in a post titled 'LinkedIn and The Impending Challenge of Facebook' writes:
What happens to people after they graduate college? Most of them get jobs and launch their professional careers... So Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team are no doubt preparing for their user base of college students turning into professionals.
Iskold then goes onto argue that Facebook's potential billion dollar valuation is in part based on the future spending power of its student user-base, who will soon "grow up to be professionals with big wallets".
While Facebook will desperately want to hold onto to its college users long after they graduate, I'm not convinced that they'll be able to simply bolt on a feature-set designed to enable career networking -- so that they can become the new LinkedIn. To begin with - as Iskold notes - Facebook is much more about social interactions and staying in touch "on a practical basis - daily". Whereas LinkedIn leveraging business connections for business purposes over a much longer period of time.
However, I think Facebook faces a more serious problem if it wants to challenge LinkedIn. How many professionals would want to associate their social life with their professional life? Especially with a history that includes college? Sure, Facebook users could trawl through and delete embarrassing content and connections. But surely a far better solution would be to keep those two worlds separate in the first place. Despite the risk of social network fatigue -- in this context I think users would much rather maintain membership of two distinct social networks.
Related post: LinkedIn has the answers