Why Linkedin is growing so fast.

As first reported by Mario Sundar, Linkedin grew 319% last year.  And to some this seems almost surprising. But if you really look at what Linkedin does, it brings more to the table than a hookup site like Facebook does. Does that surprise you that I said that I said that? Talk to your average college student and ask them what they use FB for. They might not admit it but it’s a mechanism to try and hook up without having to actually speak. it lessens rejection and makes eventual physical interactions less stressfull and less in your face. People on Facebook when talking to others, will say things they would never say face to face, and thus the reason FB is so popular with the 18-24 demo.

Now some would say that Linkedin’s growth could be attributed to the growth of social networking sites into demographics that traditionally stay away from social networking. As Nick Oneill wrote in Social Media Today, the Boomer generation has an increasing number of people on social networks. Users over 45 now account for a whopping 31 percent of LinkedIn’s user base.  But Linkedin is NOT a boomer-centric site. That’s not what is spurring its growth.

I don’t view boomer’s as a traditional user of Linkedin per se, I look at boomers as PART of the mix that is the sum of the parts that define Linkedin’s user base.

What’s happening, is that business professionals are  a) starting to see the value of being transparent and b) beginning to utilize the power of  online networking and c) understanding that social media can be used in a way that does not construe them as being too young, too trendy, too ignorant, too old, too un-tech savvy, or too uncool to their peers. They are comfortable with it, and they are now sharing that comfort level with others. So the effect has been viral! And…here is the last part no one will admit.

People are addicted to watching their number of connections grow. They are obsessive to the point that I wouldn’t mind taking a straw poll as to how many times a day the average LI user logs in to look for people, add people, and or reading about someone, asking a question, or answering one.  The question would be: How much time do you spend on Linkedin each day?

Case in point: With other demographics, when they get together, the first or last question out of their mouth might be, “Are you on Facebook?”  Whereas, now because of the prominence of social networks, that same general social networking question now resonates differently and has a more meaningfull response when professionals ask each other, “Are you on Linkedin”? 

Linkedin’s creation has allowed some of the old school traditional business processes to be bypassed, such as: the exchanging of business cards, leaving voicemail, sending intro-letters, putting together press kits, creating static web pages, mailing out brochures, and giving away swag. Anything to connect. In favor of a clear, non invasive, low stress evaluation of someone and their company. The ability to reach out to that person and their company now takes on a whole new meaning. Introductions to people and their companies now can be done efficiently and business relationships now have a  pre-existing comfort level that is in place between parties who actually may do business together. A streamlined engagement. Look at it as “hooking up” the professional way!