Spoke vs. LinkedIn

Kris Krug contacted me a little while ago, looking for contacts in Vancouver. He's originally from BC, but now living in San Francisco. Wisely, he's looking to move back to Vancouver. He and I had connected on LinkedIn, then he sent me this question about Spoke:

Hey I was browsing around Spoke.com's website and created an account. I noticed you were there too which is why I wanted to ask you a couple questions. Which do you prefer, Spoke or LinkedIn? Do you find more people you know are on one as opposed to the other? Or that the quality of contacts you've made at one is superior to another? Just wondering.. Kris Krug via email

Yes, I do have an account on Spoke. I couldn't ever get it to work for me, since it requires either a Windows machine and a program you need to install, or a web mail account. I could never get it to work with my Yahoo account, so I gave up on it. I'm not too concerned -- it looks like Spoke is chasing the enterprise market more seriously -- their free Internet service is almost more like a trial.

The only social networking site that I actually continue to use is LinkedIn (Flickr doesn't really count -- it's too much fun to be a networking site). I use LinkedIn to keep track of business contacts. Generally I only connect with people that I've either met in person or had an extended online interaction with. Kris and I only exchanged a couple of emails, so I don't quite know how he snuck in :p

Seriously though, I find the value of LinkedIn to be the very high-quality business connections that are there. It's most useful when you are actually looking for something, be it a job, someone to fill a job, or a contact at a company where you are trying to build a relationship. The rest of the time, it just sort of sits there -- there's not much point to going back. But this is a good thing: you're not being bombarded by email or other notification forms, you just know that it's a solid service that you can make use of when you want it.

A recent article in the Online Business Networks Blog points to an article in the Oakland Tribune about LinkedIn. The last sentence echoes my thoughts:

Think of LinkedIn like a map that lets you navigate your network when you need it.