Who is On LinkedIn


In our previous post, Using LinkedIn to Search for Talent, we continued our series with a discussion on how to find and recruit talent on LinkedIn.  In this post, we continue with a look at who is on LinkedIn, including a look at demographics of average users, and characteristics of expert users, called LIONs.


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Who is On LinkedIn?

According to a study done in 2008,[1] the people on LinkedIn tend to be middle-aged (42), highly compensated ($100K+), and describe themselves as decision-makers. Now you must remember that these stats are all self-reported, so take them with a grain of salt.

Internet traffic measurement company Quantcast reported the US demographics[2] shown in the following figure in September, 2010.

Figure 17 — LinkedIn US Demographics

Income represents total household income
An index of 100 represents the average across all Internet users

The average LinkedIn member has a pitiful 34-38 connections. Really, now, we’ll bet you could sit down for five minutes with a pad and pen and come up with more than 40 current and former associates, classmates, and other connections you might know well enough to invite to connect on LinkedIn.

There are some people on LinkedIn who think it’s all about the numbers, and they keep score by amassing hundreds of connections. Those who will indiscriminately connect with anyone are called LIONs.

What is a LinkedIn LION™?

LION™ stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. LIONs are not endorsed or supported by LinkedIn. In fact, the LION concept — connect indiscriminately — runs counter to LinkedIn’s slogan: Relationships Matter. Nobody knows for sure, but there are probably well in excess of 16,000 LION members on the site.

LIONs connect with anyone. They don’t care who you are, what you do, what they can do for you, or what you can do for them. They tend to crow that their networks are huge. But what does a huge network of people you don’t know do for you?

You know what? We belong to a network that will allow us to ask anyone in the developed world a question.

It’s called the telephone network.

We’re about as likely to get help with a problem, or get referred to a valuable contact, by randomly dialing the phone as we would by using a LION’s network.

There is an upper limit to LIONs’ — and any member’s — number of connections: 30,000. And you only are permitted 3,000 connection invitations, lifetime. That’s why you’ll see so many LIONs requesting that you send them an invite, rather than them inviting you.

One of the LIONs’ codes is that a LION will never IDK you.

What is an IDK?

If you try to connect with a LinkedIn member and they don’t remember you, they can IDK — I Don’t Know — your attempt. It used to be quite obvious how to do this — I Don’t Know was a button shown below the invitation. Since LinkedIn did a redesign in mid-2010, there’s now an Ignore button, which removes the request from your queue, and a Report Spam button. If you can choose to Report Spam, that’s the same as IDKing them. You should only do this if the person persistently bothers you to connect or is otherwise misusing LinkedIn.

Figure 18 — Example of Ignoring a Connection Request on LinkedIn

If you get a lot of IDKs — as few as five — LinkedIn black-lists you and can terminate your usage or suspend your account for up to 90 days. So it’s a very good idea to not extend LinkedIn invitations to folks you barely know.

If a LION IDKs you, you are not penalized, supposedly, but this is hard to rely on, since LinkedIn doesn’t condone LIONs.

Help! I’ve Been IDKed!

If you get even one IDK, immediately contact LinkedIn Customer Service and explain the circumstances. Conversely, limit your own use of the IDK to truly obnoxious people. If you don’t want to accept a connection request, simply archive or ignore it.

Alternative to Being a LION

Being a LION can be exhausting work. Since you agree to connect with anyone, and advertise this fact in your professional headline, you generally get lots of connection requests, which you have to honor, one at a time. This can add up to quite a daily chore.

We recommend that, as an alternative, you find at least five LIONs in your industry, locality, or occupation and connect with them. This simple technique will grow your network exponentially, and it takes very little effort vs. being a LION.

We asked a certain LinkedIn Rock Star LION how many connection requests he had to deal with every day. He said generally dozens, with 120 pending at any one time. It took him more than half an hour each day to deal with them. We asked him how big his LinkedIn network was and he said, boastfully, 6 million.

Imagine his surprise when we told him that, using our strategy we had maybe one or two connection requests a day maximum, and a network size of 12 million (up from 8.3 million in less than nine months).


Who is On LinkedIn is the 86th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 254. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances

Next up: Create Your LinkedIn Profile


[1] Summarized by TechCrunch: tcrn.ch/dsZ1R4; Anderson Analytics’ report: bit.ly/be9i11

[2] For up-to-date demographics from Quantcast: bit.ly/cAj0Z9

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About Social Media Performance Group

Social Media Performance Group is a premier enterprise social media consulting company that offers a unique approach to integrating social media into the enterprise — forget about the tools, it's all about the strategy! Rather than focusing on the tactics (do this or that on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube), first we work with you and your senior leadership to comprehend your corporate strategy. Once we understand your strategic objectives and goals, we show you how a comprehensive social media strategy can integrate with and support your corporate strategy. We take an enterprise-wide view based on our unique Enterprise Social Media Framework, which maps social media to all appropriate touchpoints in your enterprise. We go beyond the obvious quick hits — sales and marketing — and help you achieve social-media-driven results in areas such as product development, customer service, and employee engagement and retention. As a result, social media is not just bolted on; it is integrated with, and provides support for, your company's existing strategy and operations, yielding unprecedented results.
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