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LinkedIn vs. Facebook: Showdown

LinkedIn is the name on everyone's lips today on Wall Street. The business-focused social networking site announced it will be offering shares at an initial price of $45, with LinkedIn valued at $4.3 billion. Some market watchers think the price is too high, but others believe LinkedIn could lead another round of big internet IPOs. (When the company initially announced its IPO, observers expected a valuation of $2 billion, and in early May LinkedIn was still predicted to be valued at $3 billion; in the past week, the IPO price has gone up $10. Not that The Study thinks that's a rather steep climb or anything...) Obviously, one site everyone is comparing LinkedIn to is fellow social network Facebook, which is expected to have its IPO in 2012, and already has an Oscar to its name. But in the business world, who wins?

Erm, well, The Study is thoroughly unqualified to answer the financial version of that question, so instead we'll look at which network is used by more businesspeople. Lo and behold, in May 2009, Meredith Skeels of the University of Washington and Jonathan Grudin of Microsoft's research department surveyed Microsoft employees about their use of social networking services. The survey found that not only did both social networking sites have the same percentage of users among Microsoft employees (LinkedIn at 52% of Microsoft employees, Facebook at 49%), but in both cases about a third of Microsoft employees used each service at least occasionally. (Although more employees used Facebook daily than used LinkedIn daily.) A higher percentage of Microsoft employees under 25 had accounts with Facebook (72%) than with LinkedIn (46%), but in the 26-35 age bracket, user numbers were about the same, suggesting that as Facebook users grow older and have more business contacts, they are likely to become LinkedIn users as well.