Networking Tips

LinkedIn vs. Your Email Social Network: A Head-To-Head Comparison

Jamie Grenney
December 22, 2021
LinkedIn vs. Your Email Social Network: A Head-To-Head Comparison

I joined LinkedIn in May of 2005, when it was still invite-only. My friend Steve Purcelli, got me in. When I first joined, I wasn’t so sure about if another social network would catch on. 

2,192 connections and nearly 17 years later, I can say for sure that LinkedIn had a significant impact on my career. 

That doesn’t mean I think LinkedIn is perfect. After joining Connect The Dots and using our platform, I started to notice some pretty clear differences between what each of the two apps could tell me about my professional relationships.

So I thought it would be interesting to do a little analysis and see how they compare.

Here’s how it went down.

The data

I used a little-known LinkedIn feature that allows you to export your connections and downloaded a CSV file. Then, I went through the data line by line, and scored my relationships using the same breakdown Connect The Dots uses: strong, familiar, weak, and unknown.

I labeled people I knew well or very well strong or familiar. If I had a hard time visualizing who a person was and didn’t feel confident they’d remember me, I labeled the relationships weak or unknown. 

With Connect The Dots, I didn’t need to download or manually score anything because the platform automatically analyzes data from a rich source—my “email social network.” Between my personal Gmail and an old Hotmail account I’ve got 20 years of history. And I’ve got two work accounts connected. All this data has been deduped, augmented, scored, and double-checked by me.

The result

As this scoreboard shows, Connect The Dots outperformed LinkedIn on every level. When I looked closer at the data, three things jumped out at me. 

Almost 70% of my LinkedIn connections are people I don’t know well

Everyone has their own take on what invites they accept on LinkedIn. My rule is that if I've met someone in person or over a video call, I’ll accept the invitation. Over the years, a lot of one-time meetings have faded from memory, to the point where they’re now unfamiliar and it’s hard for me to recall how I know them. When I put my LinkedIn data under the microscope, it turned out that I have more that 1,400 connections I don’t really know.

Almost 32% of my strong and familiar relationships don’t show up on LinkedIn

Connect The Dots indicates the strength of each relationship by the frequency and duration of your communications with a person. If you’ve emailed someone a lot, over a long period of time, they show up as a strong relationship.

When I compared my strong and familiar relationships in Connect The Dots with my strong and familiar relationships on LinkedIn, I saw that LinkedIn failed to reflect 31.9% of them. Apparently, I’ve got a lot of close contacts I’ve never connected with on LinkedIn. Maybe I forgot to send an invite or they didn’t accept mine. Or in some cases it’s because they’re not on LinkedIn at all. 

Connect The Dots is now my biggest bank of relationships.

In total, Connect The Dots gives me a picture of 12,457 relationships—five times more than what LinkedIn can show me. And on Connect The Dots, I have clear context on how I know every one of them. I can click in to each contact and see when we were in touch, what we talked about, and who we both know. Even for the people I don’t know as well, I can see our history. 

Connect The Dots shows you who you know–and who you could know

The final row on my chart comparing Connect The Dots and LinkedIn shows where the gap between the two platforms gets a lot wider. When I connect with someone on Connect The Dots, I can see a list of their relationships, sorted by strength, so it’s very easy to see who my friends and colleagues know best. And because I’ve been on the platform for a while, my network of potential connections has grown a lot. 

There are more than 125,000 people I could get introduced to through Connect The Dots! LinkedIn does show you who your connections know, but it gives no information about how well people know each other. And as my own LinkedIn data shows, that’s a problem if you want to ask for insight about or an introduction to a person from one of his or her LinkedIn connections.

Connect The Dots makes LinkedIn more valuable 

Everything I’m saying in this post is not to devalue LinkedIn. It’s a highly valuable platform that I check a few times a day. But I do think LinkedIn can be a lot more powerful and useful when combined with a network intelligence platform like Connect The Dots. That’s a big reason why we created our Chrome plugin, which allows you to overlay our platform on LinkedIn. You can look at any individual or company profile, see your best connections to that person or business, and find the best inroad to make contact. It’s a huge boost to any networking or prospecting effort.

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