Who's on LinkedIn?

Note: I post weekly on my LinkedIn profile as I do for my 1500 email subscribers. Recently, I wrote and published a post on LinkedIn titled, "Should Change Begin in the Middle?" Within a few days, I had over 10,000 views, picked up 484 followers, and I received 60 comments and questions.This got my attention as normally, I get 100-200 views, a few likes, a few comments, and possibly pick up 1 -2 new followers. So, I was intrigued and decided to dig into the LinkedIn phenomenon and find out what is the predominant group on LinkedIn. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/.

The Story Of LinkedIn

Reid Hoffman, 41, started LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals in late 2002. Its 380 million members include people from more than 200 countries and executives from every Fortune 500 company.

From the beginning, Hoffman, a Stanford graduate, understood the importance of building and leveraging his network. Beyond LinkedIn, the entrepreneur is also an active investor, advising and funding more than 60 Silicon Valley startups, including Facebook. In the early 1990s, after a stint studying philosophy at Oxford and planning an academic life, he changed course and returned to Silicon Valley. There, he immediately started tapping into his connections to pursue his dream of starting a software company. And, then, in his living room in late 2002, with a small group of colleagues from PayPal and other companies, LinkedIn was founded.

Growth was moderate the first three years until Reid stepped down as CEO in 2006 to bring in Dan Nye to help scale the company infrastructure to its fullest potential and prepare it to go public.  Dan led LinkedIn during a period of extraordinary growth, transforming the company from a young start-up to a strong, high profile, profitable enterprise. In early 2009, Dan left to start Rocket Lawyer, an integrated cloud legal service, and Jeff Weiner from Yahoo stepped in as Interim President, while Reid Hoffman assumed the CEO position again.

Since its founding in 2002, in just six short years, (by 2008) the Mountain View, Calif., company became one of Silicon Valley's stalwarts, with 350 employees and a brand recognized throughout corporate America. In 2014, profitable since 2006, LinkedIn's revenues topped $2.2 billion, with a market value of $7 billion. Employing nearly 9,000 people in 30 countries, LinkedIn is currently the third most popular social network in terms of unique monthly visitors -- right behind Facebook and Twitter.

How Can LinkedIn Be Used?

The basic functionality of LinkedIn allows users (workers and employers) to create profiles and "connections" to each other in an online social network which may represent real-world professional relationships. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection. However, if the invitee selects "I don't know" or "Spam", this counts against the inviter. If the inviter gets too many of such responses, the account may be restricted or closed.

This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways:

  • Obtaining introductions to the connections of connections (termed second-degree connections) and connections of second-degree connections (termed third-degree connections)
  • Users can find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one's contact network.
  • Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates.
  • Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.
  • Users can post their own photos and view photos of others to aid in identification.
  • Users can follow different companies and can receive notifications about the new joining and offers available.
  • Users can save (i.e. bookmark) jobs that they would like to apply for.
  • Users can "like" and "congratulate" each other's updates and new employments.
  • Users can see who has visited their profile page.

Where Does a Typical LinkedIn User Come From?

United States - 118 million - 31.50%

United Kingdom - 19 million - 5.0%

Spain - 7 million - 1.8%

Mexico - 7 million - 1.8%

Italy - 8 million - 2.1%

India - 31 million - 8.1%

France - 10 million - 2.7%

Canada - 11 million - 3.0%

Brazil - 22 million - 5.8%

Australia - 7 million - 1.8%

LinkedIn Segments

Of the total membership of 380 million members, 39 million are students and recent college graduates. LinkedIn categorizes all members as professionals and executives, but I think the majority of the members (other than the 39 million student members) are middle managers and here's why.

For today, let's drill down on the US. According to the census bureau there are about 6,000,000 companies in the US. About 6,000 of them are public which means we can say for all intents and purposes that there are really 5,994,000 private companies. The bottom line is that there are only potentially 6 million CEO's in America and add another 2 per company in upper management (one-third of the companies in America have 100 or fewer employees) and you have a lot of people that are not really executives. In fact, the Wall Street Journal estimates that there are 12 million middle managers in the US today.  So, let's get real: if we extrapolate globally, the vast, vast majority of workers in companies in the world are middle managers and will always remain so.

Let's get back to my premise about the majority of LinkedIn members being middle  managers...........if you were the CEO of LinkedIn, which group would you select as your target market demographic? Probably the largest one and any shoulder demographics like students, C-Suite, and regular workers that you pick up would be gravy. Using LinkedIn's latest demographics, it is no small surprise to see that 58% of the 2015 members are in that class we call middle managers.

What does LinkedIn do then? LinkedIn is rife with advice from CEOs because LinkedIn is constantly soliciting CEOs on their advice to middle managers. They say lots of CEO things, that sound great to the vast masses that would love to be respected, rich, and powerful. Check it out for yourself; the majority of the blog posts and articles on LinkedIn are focused on middle managers and written by CEO's.

To test my hypothesis, I will forthwith start to write to a target audience that is classified by LinkedIn as middle managers and see if it can become a theory.


Next Week: Middle Managers!