Business Social Networks

Membership numbers of the business social networks are exploding. This is supported by a recent survey revealing that it is senior business decision-makers who are the dominant users of social media.

The research was carried out in the US, but given the worldwide membership growth figures for the business, or professional, social networks, it is likely that these findings are also relevant for Europe.

Key Facts
• The 3 principal social networks used for business purposes are market leader LinkedIn, Germany’s XING and Viadeo, a French-owned website.

• Research from Anderson Analytics and Greenfield Online carried out in May of this year and reported in Mashable revealed that:

o “The largest percentage of social network users are business users (31.8%) which correlates to a segment of 35 million users with an average age of 33 and an average income of $56k.”
o Anderson Analytics also revealed in an earlier report on LinkedIn that, 66% of the members are “decision makers or have influence in the purchase decisions” and that for individual members “the greater the number of connections the greater the likelihood of higher personal income”.

• Principal uses for all of the professional networks remains building a contact base, generating new business leads and recruitment.

• LinkedIn is by far the biggest of the three, with 43 million members across 200 countries in May 2009, more than a 50% increase in membership levels since March 2008. In addition to the basic level membership there are three premium level memberships providing access to a range of services such as Inmail (allowing members to contact people outside of their network), introduction requests and the opportunity to view up to 700 results per search. Premium membership starts at $24.95 a month right up to $499.95 a month.

• XING has over 7.5 million members (up 31% on 2008) and is available in 16 languages.

• Advantages of the XING network are listed as XINGJobs, more than 26 thousand specialized groups and over 90 thousand live networking events a year organized by members for members. The Headquarters are in Hamburg with local offices in Barcelona, Istanbul and Milan. Premium membership, starting from 4.95 Euros a month, provides messaging access to all members, the opportunity to enhance your profile with work samples and references and access to additional company information.

• Viadeo has 8.5 million members (a 50% increase in membership since April 2008). The head office is in France, with subsidiaries in Italy, Spain, UK, Mexico, India and China (through the acquisition of in 2007).

• Viadeo positions itself as a global company with a local development strategy. Most of its members are not international business leaders but people who do business within their own city or region with members they know and trust. 90% of their professionals do business locally and 15% of the members class themselves as entrepreneurs. Members have an average of 50 contacts as members put quality, activity and interactivity before volume.

• Viadeo offers dedicated recruiting tools for HR companies and for business and alumni associations it has developed a specific platform called Communities, a private space to communicate and interact with their own members.

• Premium membership, starting from 5.91 Euros a month, provides access to all member profiles, the opportunity to see who has checked your profile, unlimited connection requests and the opportunity to place ads and create events.

Social Networking Developments
• Whilst there still appears to be some uncertainness as how to achieve the desired networking and lead generation results from these networks, a number of new companies have sprung up to provide advice on how to connect, build your profile or generate a group made up of your target audience. One such example is Linked:Group, who have set up and now administrate some of LinkedIn’s largest groups, including Group Linked HR with more than 150,000 members.

• LinkedIn has generated another new phenomenon, the LION’s (LinkedIn Open Networkers) who contrary to the stated intention of the network (where connections should be based on personal recommendations and trust), choose to connect to as many people as possible, even if they are perfect strangers. Some of the biggest “LION’s” now have more than 30,000 connections. A list of LinkedIn’s top 50 “most connected” is available at For those who want rapid access to a large network, it is possible to pay for access to the 43,000+ open networkers and their connections. ( This phenomenon hasn’t appeared in the European networks such as Viadeo, where the emphasis is on building tight, close networks of trusted members.

• Highly-targeted advertising to selected professional profiles has been made possible with the networks offering tailor-made advertising formats.

Marco Corsaro, Managing Director of 77Agency who represent the largest business network in Europe, Viadeo, said “77Agency is proud of having been selected by leading business social media network Viadeo to manage some of their acquisition activities. Viadeo is a great platform and it is great that Linkedin is facing some fierce European and worldwide competition.”

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