When I first heard about LinkedIn, I was fairly skeptical. A professional social media experience? Who would want such a thing? Turns out thousands of people. Millions, even. 300 million, to be exact.

What separates LinkedIn from the rest of the social media platform pack is its professional-centric design and features. Available in 20 different languages, many people use the site in order to gain professional awareness, connect with fellow alumni, and build relationships with those in similar industries.

LinkedIn is the quintessential place to be a professional while still embracing social media. You don’t have to worry about getting hundreds of invites from your cat-lady cousin while peacefully missing out on the latest celebrity gossip.

There is a reason people use different social media platforms. Each platform specializes in showcasing a specific expression of the same idea. Here’s a list of social media sites each sharing the same idea:

Facebook: Today I woke up and it was snowing!

Twitter: Snow! #minnesota

Instagram: Here’s a picture of the snow this morning!

YouTube: I took a video of the snow this morning!

LinkedIn: Is bad weather causing you to work from home? Here are the best tips for snowed-in employees.

Google+: Image of a tumbleweed.

Where Facebook lacks in its professional features, LinkedIn makes up for in specific sections related to work, volunteer, and collegiate experience. Facebook offers similar features, but it doesn’t allow you to elaborate. Here’s a side by side:

John Smith on Facebook: Internet Marketing Specialist at XYZ Advertising

John Smith on LinkedIn: Since 2011, I have headed the Internet Marketing team at XYZ Advertising. What started as an internship grew into a meaningful partnership with my clients and colleagues. My specialties include social media management and marketing, technical and product writing, client support management, and overseas coordination. On average, our clients have increased their ROI by 30% after just one quarter of partnering with us.

You’ve learned more about John Smith on LinkedIn than John Smith on Facebook. Their open templates allow users to delve into their past (but not in a weird way) by describing what they do in depth instead of only uploading an employer and position.

Another area that LinkedIn showcases users’ experience is by having a section titled “Skills.” Simple phrases can be added for your expertise, and other connections can endorse you. Facebook tried to do this with a section called “Interests,” most of which are centered around sports, movies, and music. In short, no one on LinkedIn is listing “Watching The Big Lebowski” as a skill.

While LinkedIn maintains a professional design, the social media giant is beginning to implement features that are outside the realm of social business networking. For instance, you can now upload a background photo to your LinkedIn profile, something that was previously unavailable. Facebook, as you might know, implemented the idea of a cover photo in 2011 in their massive redesign. It seems as though LinkedIn is wanting to appeal to both sides of the coin, those that want to continue a statement of professionalism while wanting to add some personal flare to their profile. Keep in mind, when I say “personal flare,” I don’t mean your favorite spread of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug. A field of French lavender or a sunset will do just fine.

Having a professional social media site in the public sphere is insanely helpful for those really wanting to make a push forward in their industry. In the six years I’ve had a LinkedIn account, I’ve applied for jobs, connected with alumni, and connected with those in a similar profession as myself. LinkedIn is fantastic at sustaining a work-friendly platform while not taking away from the all-encompassing social media experience.

Liz Donehue
Prospectr Marketing