Alan Harries looks at the purpose and value of being connected through a social media platform such as LinkedIn.

Unless living under a rock for a long time and surviving without mobile devices or computers, it’s unlikely you’ve missed the growing daily influence by social media over our personal and work lives.

For many in business being involved in social media is about developing connections which are presumably for the purpose of business development and opportunities.

In my own case, I do have connections through LinkedIn or as I often refer to it, “Facebook for Business”.  My contacts are both from Australia and overseas, they include people I know through business and study, from this industry and from my involvement in rugby union administration. 

I haven’t set out to build a massive number of connections but rather the growth in my contacts has been pushed along by the invitations forwarded through the platform.  My reticence is principally as I’ve been unable to appreciate a real purpose or benefit of building the network other than for the sake of doing so.

Perhaps, I overthink it as I consider each invitation before accepting a connection or selecting “ignore” based on whether I know the individual or think there will be some likely engagement in the future with the individual/business.  Despite this, some dubious contacts have slipped through into my network – by dubious, I mean contacts I’ve never heard from or whom I’m unlikely to do business with.

From some online research for this article, it’s apparent others similarly question the value of having a large network of social media connections and with many now deciding a smaller group may be more valuable. The push back being that with an enormous network it is so much harder to develop the trust and intimacy possible within a smaller group. 

As mostly we will want to connect with specific people for specific purposes this is unlikely to be achieved within networks which seemingly push the building of a connection list of many names, emails and telephones without rhyme or reason.

One commentator, Alexandra Samuel[i] uses “the favour test” when deciding who she will include as a connection – she only connects with people she “knows well enough to ask a favour of or to do a favour for”.

The reason being, she explains is that the greatest value LinkedIn can offer is its “ability to help you get introduced to the people who can make a difference to your work”. Such introductions being possible only when the second degree connections in your search results are those who are connected to someone you know well enough to ask for an introduction.

Samuel suggests a real enhancement would be if LinkedIn allowed you in your network to differentiate between those you regard as “close contacts” and those you don’t know well or even at all.  She explains other platforms such as Facebook have some neat enhancements such as the ability to create lists of contacts with whom you wish to share specific content so for example you could share work related content with a “colleagues” list sparing those contacts from family related content which could be available to your “family” list and vice versa.

She advocates that by “offering a more nuanced approach to how we connect with people would turn LinkedIn into the engine of a new way of looking at the role of social networks in our working lives. Connecting online is now as big a part of our professional networking as face-to-face meetings and conferences. But just as in the offline world, some of those connections are more meaningful than others.”

There is potentially good value in being connected through platforms such as LinkedIn but like most things in business, the effort you invest determines what you get out of the time investment and experience.  Although the “favour” test described earlier is appealing, I think for now I will stick with my own assessment of “likely engagement” when responding to invitations to join my network of connections.

Getting your network right is an essential step before you consider what you wish to communicate and how you will engage with those valuable connections.

Some stats about LinkedIn

I didn’t make up these statistics, they come from global digital advertising and marketing agency

As at 1 January 2018, LinkedIn had 500 million users with 250 million being monthly active users.  57% of users are male and 43 % female.  70% of users are from outside the US and after that country, India, Brazil, Great Britain and Canada has the highest number of LinkedIn users.

Some interesting observations about LinkedIn usage includes:

  • 41% of millionaires use it
  • 1 million professionals have published posts on LinkedIn
  • An average user spends 17 minutes monthly on LinkedIn
  • The average CEO has 930 connections
  • “Motivated” was the most overused word on LinkedIn in 2014
  • There have been 1 billion endorsements on LinkedIn
  • The top skills cited on LinkedIn are Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
  • There are 5.5 million Accountants on LinkedIn

How does this compare to Facebook?

Again helpfully provides the statistical insights:

As at 1 January 2018, Facebook had 2.072 billion monthly active users with 1.66 billion being mobile monthly active users.  47% of users are male and 53 % female.  The average Facebook user has 155 friends.

There are some interesting observations too about Facebook usage, including:

  • More than 40 million small businesses have active pages
  • The Facebook like button has been pressed 1.13 trillion times!
  • The average time spent on Facebook per visit is 20 minutes with the average monthly time spent being 600 minutes
  • Every 20 minutes, 1 million links are shared, 20 million friend requests and 3 million messages are sent
  • 55 million status updates are made every day



[i] Alexandra Samuel:”The More People We Connect with on LinkedIn, the Less Valuable It Becomes”, 5 May 2016,


[Alan Harries is the CEO of the Institute of Mercantile Agents and the Australian Collectors & Debt Buyers Association]