The LinkedIn Experiment

I use LinkedIn a great deal, and I recommend to my clients that they use it. It’s not just an elaborate digital rolodex. There are many innovative ways it can be used for education, direction and disseminating information among other things.

In fact, the thing I use it least to do, is contact people. It’s my impression that there are islands of well connected people who use a lot of the behind-the-scenes aspects of LinkedIn, and a much larger group of people who have a profile, but pay very little attention. This second group, the majority, use LinkedIn as a passive online CV service. Post your profile, then come back to change it when you change jobs. So I thought I’d do a little experiment.

The Method

It’s very unscientific, so don’t read too much into it. For the last few weeks I’ve viewed profiles. 100 a day, for three weeks.

  • In week one, I viewed profiles of my connections. 100 on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, right through the week.
  • In week two I viewed the profiles of second order connections: the people with whom I share at least one connection.
  • In week three I viewed third order connections: people who know someone who knows me.

I didn’t send any of the viewed profiles link requests, so nothing would be sent to alert them that I’d been to have a peek. The only way they’d know was if they checked to see who had looked at their profile. Of course then there’s the second activity they have to do: look at my profile in return.This is the proxy I’ve used for being ‘active’, it’s someone who does more than look at their homepage.

The Results

The results were disappointing.

After filtering out the views I usually get:

  • In week one, after 700 views of different direct connections, I received 68 ‘look backs’. fractionally under 10%
  • In week two, from 700 views of second order connections, I had 47 ‘look backs’ – 6.7%
  • From 700 views of third order connections in week three, I had 38 ‘look backs’ – 5.4%

I’d expect there to be fewer ‘look backs’ from more distant connections, but part of the point of the extended network is the lending of credibility. You trust me enough to connect, I trust them enough to connect, so you borrow my trust as a mutual friend to give some credibility to them. I’m disappointed that the drop off in look backs was as high as it was. I was just as disappointed that they number of active users of the network was so low.

A ten/seven/five percent return rate won’t have included the connections who noticed I’d viewed their page and didn’t bother to look at mine. But even accounting for that, I feel that the network is sorely underused. All those people just squat their resume on the site and forget about it. They’re missing all the valuable parts of the network.

But then, I suppose, they wouldn’t need to pay me to open their eyes to the possibilities.



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