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Facebook Vs. LinkedIn: Why Both Are Facing a Sticky Question

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The social media companies are unveiling new search features that they hope will keep their users more engaged.

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LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) are both social networks, and there the similarities end -- or so you would think. LinkedIn has 200 million members, all of them professionals focused on business connections. Facebook passed the billion mark sometime late last year, and that's about half of the people in the world who have access to the Internet.

And yet, as businesses, they both have the same challenge. It's all about "stickiness," in the gross terminology of the industry. It's about giving those users a reason to access the site early and often, and to keep clicking while they're there.

Only a few sites on the Web have that one nailed down, and they notably include Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), the one that seems to have all the answers.

Maybe that's why both LinkedIn and Facebook have chosen search as their next big project. Neither is encroaching on Google territory. Rather, they're trying to create their own search applications within a closed world that they hope their users will stay inside.

Both are in the early rollout phases, so you might not be able to see or use them yet. Here's a preview.

LinkedIn's New Search

LinkedIn is laser focused on one important chunk of the lives of its users: their work. Where they are now, where they've been, and where they might want to go next. What they've learned, and what they might need to know next. And, of course, who they've gotten to know along the way, and who they might want to get to know next.

This is all important stuff, but not all that riveting as a spare-time activity. Unless you're one of those highly focused and single-minded ambitious types, LinkedIn isn't a choice, it's a chore.

Can tinkering with search functionality turn that around? It can help, especially if it guides LinkedIn users toward a richer selection of content. And fleshing out content has been another priority of the site's management lately.

The revamp, announced Monday, encourages users to search for updates across all of its key content areas-jobs, people, companies, and so on. It adds an "auto-complete" function that prompts the user with options as the query is typed. It organizes search results into areas of possible interest, with previews to help the user make a choice. It has an advanced search option for filtering. And, there's an alert function that notifies the user when a saved search has an update.

The new search is customized, too. Since it knows who you are, it can prioritize the results that might be most relevant. That is a feature that gets more refined the more you use it.
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