September 11, 2009

LinkedIn and the Value of Social Media in a Tight Job Market

Senior Vice President, Marketing & Insights

Last week’s report that the U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 9.7% in August is another stark reminder of the tough economic environment. With unemployment climbing 4 percentage points in the past year alone, it is no surprise that one of the fastest gaining online categories during that time has been Job Search, which is up 33% vs. year ago to 23.1 million visitors in July.

Despite the gloom of the current job market, every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case I think it is how the Internet is giving those affected by the job situation the critical resources to help navigate this treacherous environment. There is one online resource (not even included in the Job Search site category) that particularly stands out to me: The business-oriented social networking site has become more important than ever for those looking for job opportunities and it has the growth to show for it. The U.S. audience at LinkedIn neared its all-time high in July with about 8 million visitors, a 66% increase vs. year ago.

I decided to investigate how LinkedIn might be playing a role as a critical networking resource for those on the job hunt. To do so, I compared the share of visitors to LinkedIn who were heavy, medium and light visitors to the Job Search category to that of the U.S. Internet population as a whole. (“Heavy” is defined as top 20% of visitors by time spent, “medium” is next 30%, and “light” is the bottom 50%). By looking at the relative representation of these sub-segments, we can get a better idea of whether or not these people are in the job market and how intensively they might be looking.

As it turns out, LinkedIn showed a significantly higher percentage of its visitors from each of the three sub-segments of Job Search category visitors. In fact, 28.5% of its total audience was comprised of job-seekers, compared to just 11.8% of the total U.S. Internet population. Perhaps even more compelling is that 8.2% of visitors were heavy visitors to the Job Search category, compared to just 2.4% of the total Internet audience. In fact, LinkedIn had at least twice as high a percentage of visitors from each HML sub-segment than those of the total Internet population.

These data indicate that LinkedIn is substantially more likely to be used by those actively job-hunting than by those who are not, which suggests that online job-seekers are actually turning to LinkedIn as a resource to help them network. If that’s the case, then it is a terrific illustration of how social media is changing the way we’re able to leverage of respective social networks to initiate positive action.

We know that social media enable us all to exert a certain degree of influence with our friends and colleagues through the digital medium, and what better way to use this influence than to get after a new job if we’ve lost one in this tough environment. Amidst the constant debate over whether or not social media is actually valuable, sometimes the obvious is overlooked. And I think this is just one example among many where social media is fundamentally changing the way the real world functions.

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