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LinkedIN is Not Facebook (or Is It)?

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As many of you will know, I am an avid user of social media.  I’ve found social media a great way to connect and exchange ideas with people that I never would have met otherwise, and one platform I’ve found particularly useful is LinkedIN.   As you’re probably aware, LinkedIN has always marketed itself as a professional networking community.  It’s a place to meet others in and beyond your own industry, and maybe even schmooze with clients, suppliers, or maybe even your next boss! As such, the posts tend to be more professional in tone than other networks.  Well, most of the time, anyway.

If you’re a LinkedIN user you may have noticed a trend recently of some folks posting ‘motivational quotes’ or pictures of their holiday snaps.  Next time you see something like this, scroll down and read the comments—sooner or later, someone will have angrily written “This is LinkedIN, not Facebook, this is no place for a post like this!”.  I’ve seen a few comments like this, and it opens up interesting questions of purpose and perspective.   Or put another way: What is LinkedIN for?

One Platform Multiple Purposes

The answer to this question is almost certainly ‘it depends who you ask’.  There are some people who use LinkedIN purely to search for jobs.  Other use it to advertise jobs.  Some use it to make sales or search for leads. Others use it to learn, network and engage.   Which of those is the ‘right’ purpose? 

An often overlooked technique, that can be very useful in situations like this is the ‘PQR’ formula for giving shape to a root definition (this forms part of Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), which I’d highly recommend reading up on, although it should be noted I’m using it outside of the context of SSM).    The PQR formula answers the key questions of what, how and why.  Elaborated it is:

Do P by Q in order to contribute towards achieving R

(see Checkland & Scholes, 1999, p. a22)

This can be a really useful tool for discussing or brainstorming different ‘purposes’ that a bounded system or service exists.  For example LinkedIN might be:

  • A platform to enable networking through conversations in order to contribute towards knowledge sharing and the growth of professional communities
  • A platform to connect job seekers and recruiters by cultivating open networking where recruiters and job seekers can easily find each other in order to contribute towards easier recruitment

Depending on who you ask, it might also be a place to share holiday snaps… or even to ‘make money’ (particularly if you’re a shareholder!).  In order for LinkedIN to succeed, it needs to strike a dynamic equilibrium between a number of these purposes; and it also needs to adapt when perspectives change.

How Much Do You Know About YOUR Stakeholders’ Perspectives?

We talk a lot about ‘customer journeys’ and ‘personas’—and this is extremely important.  But how often do we sit back and think, across our entire stakeholder landscape, ‘why do they think this (process/system/whatever) exists?’ and ‘what is it about this (thing) that they value?’.

Kleenex famously changed the way they marketed their product in response to how customers actually used it.  Their brand of tissues were originally launched as a “cold cream remover”, but the firm noticed that people were using it in other ways (including sneezing into it).  They seized upon this, acknowledging that customers had found new uses for their products.  Perhaps LinkedIN users are doing the same.  Maybe your customers are too…

How often do we actually know how our stakeholders feel about the service or process that we are designing or refining?  If you’re selling insurance online, do your customers want ‘insurance’?  Do they want ‘peace of mind’?  Or do they just want to be ‘road legal’?  There are probably a whole range of consumer types.  In the pursuit of ‘customer intimacy’ it is very easy to design an experience that actively obstructs people who  ‘just want to get the thing done and get on with my day because my life does not revolve around car insurance’.   Sure, car insurance might be important to us, because we talk about it all day long, but most of the time it’s a distraction to those that buy it (until they need to make a claim, of course!)

Discussions of purpose aren’t limited to just external stakeholders.  There will be people within the organisation who have conflicting views too.  Surfacing these, and discussing them, will help us to co-create sustainable change.  The PQR formula, along with other elements of SSM, are an incredibly useful set of tools for us to consider.


Checkland, P. & Scholes, J. (1999) Soft Systems Methodology in Action, Chichester, Wiley

What are your views? Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!

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About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit

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