By Tara Lane, Staff Writer
Facebook and Twitter have both recently passed significant milestones in new user growth over the past few months, Facebook reached 300 million users, while Twitter saw growth rates over 1000 percent. It came as no surprise that LinkedIn would follow suit, announcing on Wednesday that the popular professional networking site had surpassed 50 million users. The news was even more interesting in that much of the growth came from unique visitors, signaling to those in charge that people were going there with a purpose, proving that it’s not just a passing fad.
According to LinkedIn, it took the site over one year to reach one million users. The last million to sign up, bringing them to the 50 million mark, took only 12 days. Clearly, this growth shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The site prides itself on its global accessibility, and attributes much of its growth from international users. In this age of global information and a global economy, making these kinds of meaningful connections is what can bring about change and opportunity, which was seemingly impossible in the past.
Social networking has obviously experienced exponential growth over the past few years. Rather than seeing them as short-term trend, we should embrace them as tools that can add value. In business terms, this is known as a network economy. Value can be found in every social network, and LinkedIn is no exception.
Considering the site’s audience and user base, this isn’t much of a surprise. Having such a targeted focus – professional networking and development – it isn’t where many online users are flocking. However, in today’s economy, job hunters are hearing more and more about the necessity of having a presence on LinkedIn and the value it can add to the job search. It provides actual value to its users, something that can be copied, but may be hard to match. LinkedIn has established itself as the “go-to” place for professionals of all ages, and helps to connect all industries on a common level.
We can look at these networks in a few ways. The relationships that can be built and fostered through LinkedIn can also be thought of as social capital. The connections made on the site help to make one’s individual influence much greater. Networks fostering value relationships, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are on a vertical scale. While you may only have a small number of connections, each of those connections is meaningful in some way. On the other side, surface relationships, which tend to be more horizontal, are more often found on Twitter and Myspace. Here, the need for followers and connections is based more on sheer number rather than on value and actual communication.
What does this mean? In the future, we can expect to see a lot of growth within social networks that are relationship-focused, rather than those that are more for entertainment value. Networking doesn’t always have to be about searching for a job, however, the value of one’s personal network is becoming increasingly more important. People are searching for personal connections and bonds, and networks like these are a good place to start.
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