So whilst we were socialising face-to-face, we were also talking about socialising online. Pictures were duly taken on iPhones, posted to Facebook and hangovers were Liked and shared the following day.
Pretty well everyone in those kitchens was on Facebook, but many admitted being a little bored with endless pictures of cute kittens, puppies (my own puppy included), baby rabbits and inspirational quotations. And we’re just weeks away now from endless photos of Christmas trees...
No, it seems the forty-something employee or business owner is looking for somewhere a little more ‘substantial’ to do their online socialising, and it turns out that LinkedIn is ticking the right boxes for many of them.
Out of all the party goers, only one was actually looking for a new job, so why would LinkedIn increasingly be their online party venue of choice? After all, whilst LinkedIn has evolved into a powerful real-time networking platform, there is still much about Facebook that is highly appealing.
To start with, by the time we get into our forties, many are making good progress in their career or are building their own businesses. Either way, they now see LinkedIn as their default search engine when looking for information about people they are about to meet at work or potential partners, suppliers or clients in their business. And yes, if they are looking for a job, they can use LinkedIn for that too.
And every day we’re spending more time on LinkedIn. Even in my own niche of Social Media Sales within regulated industries where many people are still figuring out the benefits of ‘Social’, we can quite clearly see them spending more and more time on the site.
'People buy people' has always been the sales mantra, and most of us now 'get' that an attractive, compelling, intriguing online profile is essential in today's Internet world. Indeed, many of us are discovering new things about the professional lives our fellow party guests - and we love it. Yes, we’re still intrigued by their holiday snaps on Facebook, but we’re increasingly intrigued by their professional activities, their business skills, where they came from and what makes them tick.
I already know that my friend Brian adores his tennis (he tells us about it ad nauseum on Facebook), but what I only recently discovered is that he's an ace copywriter and has a background in graphic design.
Serena posts pictures of her chickens almost every week, and love her as we do, I might soon be tempted to go round there and stock up my freezer. But again, a quick voyeuristic glance at her LinkedIn profile tells me plenty that I didn't know. Guess what, she used to be a forensic accountant until she gave it up to start a family.
And what about Mike who adores his gadgets and his golf and his gardening? Turns out that in a former life he used to be a fighter pilot and is still qualified to fly light aircraft. He has some inspirational stories to tell.
I've known Brian, Serena and Mike for several years, but I didn't know anything of their work/business skills. I've never needed to; they have always been just mates I meet at parties or in the school playground; they’ve certainly never been part of my business circle.
So armed with this information, what can I do with it?
Quite apart from giving me a more rounded knowledge of my friends, I can now use it in my networking and can potentially connect them with people who might need their skills. But most importantly it shows them in a new light – one which adds flesh to the bones of the relationship we have on Facebook.
And right on cue comes a new feature on LinkedIn called ‘Skills Endorsements’, where at the click of a mouse we can say how much we acknowledge and appreciate our contacts’ skills (even if we haven’t actually experienced them); a kind of professional version of the Facebook ‘Like’. The very excellent Chris Voss describes it as ‘the gamification of LinkedIn’, and it wouldn't surprise me if we soon see more features which make LinkedIn more fun and engaging. After all, games were one of the key drivers of Facebook...
I for one am enjoying seeing more of a human touch appearing on LinkedIn profiles, where we get to see more of the people behind the masks. However well optimised your profile is and however high up the search results you appear, you still need to stand out from the crowd to win the business, make the new connection or get the job.
Appearing high in the search results is soon not going to be enough; to be attractive and compelling to future employers, potential business partners and new clients, we’ll need to learn how to be significantly more engaging online. Our profiles will need to be infinitely more than a resume with a few endorsements of our skills; and employers, business partners and customers will want to see much more of the person behind the skills.
Whilst LinkedIn is yet to have the mass appeal of Facebook, with a little care, thought and imagination we can make it a real asset in our online lives – and still have fun too.
By Philip Calvert