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 first joined LinkedIn in May of 2005 through my friend Steve Purcelli, when it was still invite-only. When I joined, I wasn’t sure another social network would catch on. 

2,192 connections and nearly 17 years later, I can confidently say that LinkedIn has 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 the two apps and what they could tell me about my professional relationships.

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

Here’s how it went down.

The data

First, I used a little-known LinkedIn feature that allowed me to export my connections and download them into 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 either 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. I’ve  also connected multiple work email accounts. 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 my memory, to the point where those contacts are now unfamiliar and it’s hard for me to recall how we may have met. When I analyzed my LinkedIn data, I realized 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 and 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 missed 32% of them. Apparently, I have 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, they may not be on LinkedIn at all. 

Connect The Dots is now my biggest bank of relationships.

In total, Connect The Dots is my most comprehensive bank of relationships with 12,457 contacts—five times more than what I have on LinkedIn. On Connect The Dots, there is clear context for how I know every single contact. I can click into each contact and see when we were in touch, what we talked about, and who we both know. For the people I don’t know as well, I can still see a history of our interactions.

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 even 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. 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 when combined with a network intelligence platform like Connect The Dots. For that reason, 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 path in. It’s a huge boost to any networking or prospecting effort.

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