Facebook may have taken the headlines by overtaking MySpace as the most used social networking site with a 168% increase in users over a year, but LinkedIn quietly saw a 137% increase. It is the fifth most used social networking site.
Linkedin does not have the mass consumer appeal of some of its more light hearted counterparts, but with 15 million users and growing it is a business tool that cannot be ignored. Its users are of a similar profile and as such could be a more valuable group than the mass of diverse users of its competitors.
Facebook had 108.3 million users globally in December 2008 and MySpace had 81 million. But LinkedIn's 15 million users could be viewed as qualified leads by businesses seeking staff or partners fro example.
The recruitment industry is an example of a sector that is using LinkedIn to do business.
David Bloxham, director of Recruitment Services at recruitment firm GCS, says the firm uses LinkedIn extensively. "About 50% of our mid and senior level candidates connect to us visa LinkedIn."
He says LinkedIn is particularly useful for IT recruitment, which GCS is a specialist in. "It is an IT base network and much of the initial take up has been in the IT sector."
He says LinkedIn is a business tool, like SAP, and recruiters are now realising how powerful it is.
He says there is an important differentiation to be made between social networking sites that offer very different experiences. "Facebook is more for telling people what you were doing down at the pub but LinkedIn is for business and industrial use."
James Martin, former COO at Lehmans in the UK who left when the company went bankrupt in September, says LinkedIn has been invaluable since he has been job hunting.
He says headhunters regularly use LinkedIn to find candidates for job vacancies.
"LinkedIn is very useful while you are looking for a job not only for keeping in touch with people to see what's on offer but also to find out more about the interviewers," he says.
Social networking sites can be dangerous if business and personal contact s are linked up.
Earlier this year a Tory activist was expelled for boasting, on Facebook, about dressing up as Madeleine McCann at a fancy dress party where another guest went as Baby P.
With a 137% increase in users in a year LinkedIn is clearly growing in popularity. Compared to the social networking giants that are MySpace and Facebook LinkedIn is small. But from a business perspective the contents is valuable. The recruitment industry is logically increasingly using it as a business tool.