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    What LinkedIn Found Out After 5 Years of Social Experiments

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    Everything you need to know in less than 50 words

    After five years of inspecting trends on the platform, LinkedIn found that acquaintances – not close friends – have helped people find new jobs. The company pulled this data from 20 million users, so the stats are interesting to people with LinkedIn profiles and anyone using social media platforms.

    Tell Me More

    LinkedIn users know about the “People You May Know” algorithm, which encourages you to connect with people from your extended web of contacts. You might think the suggestions are random, but the developers specifically chose people you didn’t have strong connections with to see what might happen.

    The data showed that people with weaker social ties were more likely to help others find jobs. Analysts compared this information to how many people found new jobs based on close friends and connections.

    LinkedIn developers began analyzing extended connections and employment history to suggest diverse users. They wanted to know the likelihood that a user would send an invite to a recommended profile, if that person would accept and what the connection would build.

    From 2015 to 2019, LinkedIn used the algorithm to assign various close and distant contacts to four million profiles. After analyzing this experiment, they tried it on over 16 million people starting in 2019.

    How It Worked

    People with a LinkedIn profile have various connections, such as:

    • First degree
    • Second degree
    • Third degree

    People you add as friends on LinkedIn are your first-degree connections. Anyone who networks with your first-degree matches is a second-degree connection. From there, the web stretches out to mark third-degree connections as those users connected to second-degree profiles. You can also see mutual contacts you share with a profile to help you network.

    When LinkedIn suggests you add “People You May Know,” they either pick from your second and third-degree connections or add random profiles from your relevant field. Throughout the social experiment, developers mixed suggestions of people you were likely to work with and people you’d never encounter otherwise.

    The Purpose

    Over the years of the social experiment, LinkedIn found that people were more likely to connect with a random profile for help in the job market over someone they knew personally. The developers were testing “the strength of weak ties,” a 1973 study that researchers often revisit.

    The idea is that your close friends and coworkers have similar interests and job histories, so you have a limited pool of new opportunities. But when you expand beyond your standard social and networking circle, you have more exposure to different industries, companies, and opportunities.

    The Backlash

    Despite the positive results many people experienced as they broadened their network, there was still backlash regarding the experiment. People were angry that LinkedIn possibly changed the outcome of their employment. 

    However, as the platform’s privacy policy states, they have the right to use personal data, and that knowledge falls to the users. Seeing how LinkedIn uses personal data might inspire users to be more cautious when creating online profiles.

    Source: New York Times

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