Today’s guest post is written by Neal Schaffer.

Despite having preceded Twitter and Facebook in the social media space, LinkedIn, which was launched in 2003, has so far been unable to capture a larger share of social media users.

Many call LinkedIn the “black sheep” or the underdog of social media.

Social media demographic statistics show us Linkedin only has 150 million registered users, way below the nearly one billion Facebook users or Twitter with more than 400 million users.

See this excellent infographic for full details.

It’s also said only half of those LinkedIn users are actually active on the site.

Why is this the case? Let us take a closer look – and then ponder the question why we should care and how to use this to our advantage.

  1. Although LinkedIn was originally created for Silicon Valley executives to facilitate online networking in a trusted environment, headhunters soon learned they could easily tap into sought-after executives by building out LinkedIn networks. As more and more joined LinkedIn with the recession in late 2008, it opened huge pools of talent – and LinkedIn started providing HR professionals more tools to leverage the increased number of professional profiles. LinkedIn has now become the default location for many headhunters and hiring managers to find talent. Because of this, people don’t feel the need to go to the site unless they’re looking for a job.
  2. In alignment with the previous argument, most people equate having a presence on LinkedIn to uploading their resume to a job board. In other words, most see their LinkedIn profile as nothing more than a resume.
  3. While Twitter and Facebook allow you to message anyone despite connectivity status (although it might be harder to contact someone on Facebook depending on their privacy settings), LinkedIn makes it hard to reach out to someone – and actually monetizes guaranteed messaging through its InMail functionality. Compared to the other big social networks, and even smaller but emerging ones such as Google+ and Pinterest, LinkedIn is simply intimidating.
  4. There is no immediate gratitude on LinkedIn like you might have on Twitter or Facebook. Many sign up to LinkedIn and wait for things to happen, but sometimes nothing happens due to its environment. Both Twitter and Facebook beckon us to engage with each other through timelines that offer a robust volume of entertaining information, while LinkedIn suffers from a smaller volume of updates, which are typically less “engaging” than the content on other sites, and a culture that uses the status update much less often or is intimated to do so.

This infographic bolsters the above-mentioned points.

Statistics show 64 percent of Linkedin users use the site for business growth and three out of four its users are there for business purposes.

Furthermore, LinkedIn users spend only an average of eight minutes per visit on the site as opposed to users of Facebook and Twitter that clock in 23:20 and 11:50, respectively.

With the emergence of Pinterest and Google Plus, LinkedIn has probably become even more forgotten on the minds of many.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but this is why now is the time to go where no one has gone before: To create a robust presence on LinkedIn and leverage it for your business or personal brand.

While having a presence on other sites, if you’re not careful, can actually devaluate your brand, LinkedIn is probably the only site where the more you spend time on it, the more tangible benefits you will receive from a professional or business perspective.

Because of this, for most people, I can say:

LinkedIn provides a higher ROI for the same time spent than most social networks.

This Hubspot study has found LinkedIn provides three times more effective for lead generation than the much bigger Facebook or Twitter. Because people are on there for professional development, the site has the potential to draw a far more targeted audience with a greater concentration of quality content.

If “everyone else” is spending their time elsewhere and ignoring LinkedIn, this is your chance to make a big difference in a somewhat smaller pond.

When I speak across the country on social media, I always ask people how many of them have been contacted by a headhunter or someone with a job opportunity through LinkedIn. As can be expected, two-thirds to three-quarters of the room usually raise their hand.

But recently, when I ask how many have generated a new lead or new business on LinkedIn, a growing number of hands are going up. It is this assumption, that business is being developed every day, that drove me to search around the world for the 15+ case studies I discovered as I wrote my book Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.

What have your positive experiences with LinkedIn been?

Neal Schaffer is a Top 30 Forbes Social Media Influencer and author of the award-winning book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.” Check out Neal’s Windmill Networking blog and follow him on TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, and, of course, LinkedIn!