- 6 Oct 08, 12:09 GMT
If we are heading for a recession, there will be many losers, but a few companies will actually benefit from a downturn. They will include insolvency practitioners and pawnbrokers - but could a social network also be one of the winners?
When I was experimenting last year with all of the big networks and joined everything from Bebo to Facebook, from MySpace to SagaZone, a friend cautioned me against one particular site. "Don't bother with LinkedIn," he said,"It's for losers. People only join it when they fear they're about to be made redundant, and want to put their CV out there." My friend, a middle-aged advertising executive, is wise about the ways of the world, and while I had already signed up to LinkedIn, I mostly ignored it from then on, failing to respond to requests to join other people's networks.
Late last year I met LinkedIn's irrepressible founder Reid Hoffman at a Cambridge Union debate, where I got a few cheap laughs by describing his product as "Facebook for losers". But Mr Hoffmann - a charming, portly figure from the West Coast who was wearing a suit for the first time in his life that night - is the one laughing now.
His business appears to be going from strength to strength, winning plenty of funding from investors, doing advertising deals, and attracting new members. In recent days, the business sent me a very excited press release claimig that 28 million people - or "professionals" - have now signed up. And where are they coming from? You've guessed it, the finance industry.
The numbers joining from investment banking have doubled, and it's pretty clear why. LinkedIn conducted a poll and found out that 42% of its members felt that the current economic climate made their jobs less secure. In other words, they fear the axe is about to fall and they think that being part of a professional network could help them find another job. It sounds pretty desperate to me - and I still fail to see the attraction of a network where everyone is only interested in what you can offer them, rather than what you have to say.
Still, just in the last 48 hours I've received invitations to connect on LinkedIn from people who I already know from other networks such as Facebook and Twitter. What are they trying to tell me? That their jobs are in danger - or that mine may be soon?
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