I’ve had a profile on LinkedIn for years. I thought of it more as a way of organizing my contacts than as a business-building tool. This was especially true as Facebook opened up to everyone and Twitter emerged on the social scene.  These sites were more interactive, more interesting and more fun.

I underestimated the influence of  LinkedIn, but this shabby stepsister has power! I saw that influence first hand when a former coworker contacted me after seeing a simple status update on LinkedIn. That connection turned into our single largest project last year.

Maybe that was a fluke, being in the right place at the right time once doesn’t really mean LinkedIn can run with the big boys.

But recent events have certainly convinced me that LinkedIn can be incredibly influential. We are running our annual social media survey. Using SurveyMonkey, we are able to create “collectors” which track where respondents found the link to our survey. And the results blew me away.

Twitter has delivered about 50 responses so far, and Facebook a dismal 10. An email to almost 3,500 small business owners using Constant Contact only drove 10 respondents, and links on guest blog posts have each driven only a handful of respondents.

LinkedIn has already accounted for more than 200 responses to direct emails. Why did LinkedIn work so well when the other networks produced lackluster results?

  • I have a large network, which I do not abuse. I don’t go to them often with requests for help.
  • I explained in the subject line what I was asking: Can you help me prepare for presentations this spring? People opened the messages ready to pay me a favor. There were no surprises or bait-and-switch.
  • The message was short, informal,  and to the point.  I gave them a link to the survey and told them about how long it would take.
  • The messages were personal. On Facebook and Twitter, I simply send tweets or updated our Fan Page with the link. But on LinkedIn, I sent messages specifically to targeted individuals. The message didn’t get lost in the stream, but stood out from the crowd.

LinkedIn is quietly influential. Why? People go to LinkedIn for one reason: business.  This isn’t social. They are not mixing business with pleasure. There aren’t many jokes, and I have never seen a picture, video or comment about a cat.

I am off to a great start collecting data for this study. But I am going to have to be more creative to get responses for other sources to balance the results. Or maybe the results are balanced. Maybe, despite the time we spend on social networks, LinkedIn is really the most influential for pure business.