What’s the dominant professional network in your country?

LinkedIn isn’t always the dominant social network for professionals… but what takes its place in those locations?


Typically, I don’t start off an essay by stating it’s purpose, but since it’s primary purpose is to ask a question, I want to make that clear up front. This essay is part of a fact-finding mission. I’m hoping to get some feedback from internationally-aware readers on how professionals network with each other in countries where LinkedIn isn’t the dominant network. It might not even be online — in countries where the Internet isn’t yet as pervasive or reliable, local coffee shops may still be the primary location where business networking occurs — I don’t know. That’s the question I’m posing with this essay:

If LinkedIn isn’t the dominant professional network in your country, culture or region… what is?

Please, if you have information that can help, leave it in the comments. If there’s enough data, I’ll put together a followup article to this one with my results.

Background on LinkedIn

There are good reasons behind why Microsoft paid $26.2 billion USD for LinkedIn in 2016, and the company’s revenue model isn’t one of them. Mind you, $26.2 billion makes this the third largest tech acquisition to date, behind only the recent Dell/EMC merger and HP’s acquisition of Compaq in the early 2000s. In the United States and other countries, LinkedIn is dominant to the point where the majority of workforce in some industries is guaranteed to be on it. It has become the resume/CV for many of us and is often the platform where business relationships begin. Immediately after getting someone’s business card, many jump to LinkedIn and send a connection.

As a result, there is no ‘second place’ — for countries and industries where LinkedIn is dominant, I’ve found it captures around 90% of the entire workforce. This captive effect is reliable enough that I employ it in algorithms that help me to estimate company size and private revenue. Like many social networking platforms, few have a use for a secondary platform. Entrepreneurs and those focused on the startup culture may also be on AngelList, but that’s a smaller subset of the larger professional workforce.

Now think about the kinds of software and services Microsoft provides. Adding someone to your contact list in Outlook? Microsoft can fill in all the details from LinkedIn. Cortana can find a website, phone number or send a message using LinkedIn details. Microsoft is also in a position to see and calculate what’s happening in entire industries. The insights that can be pulled from a nearly complete window into professional lives are impressive.

  • When a large number of employees update their LinkedIn profiles in a single day, you can probably conclude that a company either had layoffs or went out of business.*
  • Are CFO tenures getting shorter and shorter? It might indicate a widespread issue with the profession or how it is used within the business.*
  • Maybe if the CFO trend is in the opposite direction and the number of IPOs is decreasing, we can chalk it up to market issues.*

*Not actual examples: I’m just trying to give an idea of the power of the information in LinkedIn — don’t get too wrapped up in the examples I chose.

The United States isn’t the center of the universe???

I imagine it’s a typical American trait to assume the technology popular here tends to be popular worldwide. It’s true that the United States has been the testing ground for a lot of technology and is home to many of the dominant corporate tech companies. There are times when this isn’t true, however, and holding these assumptions can blind us to reality.

For example, even the biggest US-based gadget geeks out there may be totally unaware of Samsung’s flagship ‘W’ series phones, because they’re primarily sold in China, where buyers often look for very different features and qualities in a smartphone.

It’s a flip phone… with two S8-quality screens, similar internals and a reported $3000 price tag. Beat that, $1149 256GB iPhone X!

Why ask the question in the first place?

Bringing the topic back to LinkedIn, I recalled reading an article a few months back that pointed out LinkedIn isn’t terribly popular in Japan. Instead, Facebook is the professional network of choice, likely confusing many US professionals working in Japan for the first time and suddenly receiving Facebook friend invites from colleagues or business partners. Take a moment to read the LinkedIn article linked in this paragraph — it will help you understand part of my reasoning for writing this piece.

My second reason for writing this piece brings the topic closer to my own industry — cyber security. I recently read about how the BfV, a German domestic intelligence agency, announced it believes Chinese intelligence is using fake profiles on LinkedIn to gather private data related to German officials and politicians. Use of LinkedIn to target individuals isn’t new, but it’s apparently uncommon for the BfV to to go public with the information, suggesting the problem is widespread. If it’s that big of a problem in Germany, the chances that the Chinese are using similar tactics against other ‘countries of interest’ is probably high.

In the cyber security industry, it’s important to understand which online services have the metaphorical target painted on their backs. Clearly LinkedIn is one of those services in both the US and Germany. Any security analyst tasked with defending an organization should understand this and keep a particular eye out for phishing/spearphishing campaigns leveraging the popularity of these services to steal credentials and trick individuals into clicking malicious links.

Concluding the question and a request for data

This raises the question — what are these sources in other countries? Where is LinkedIn the dominant professional social network and to what extent? Are other countries like the US, where 9 out of 10 professionals have accounts, or is it closer to 7 out of 10 or 50% in some countries?

Any information we can gather on this could potentially help analysts spot threats — especially in global organizations where security analysts may not be familiar with the countries and cultures they’re tasked with protecting. A SOC in India may not react the same way as a SOC in Japan or the United States, and vice-versa.

What’s the dominant professional network in your country? was originally published in Savage Security Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog post authored by Adrian Sanabria. Read the original post at: Savage Security Blog - Medium