Facebook and its subsidiaries (Instagram and WhatsApp) dominate the social networking landscape, but LinkedIn appears to be gaining traction.

The Microsoft-owned social networking site, which focuses on professional networking and job postings, laid plans years ago to become the “professional digital identity” for billions of professionals around the world. Recent numbers indicate that the company may well be on its way. LinkedIn has doubled the size of its global user base — from 300 million to more than 600 million — in the past five years alone (the company debuted in 2003).

Gathering data from more than 55,000 U.S. adults since April of 2019, a CivicScience study found that 34% now use LinkedIn with some level of frequency — 15% use it daily to weekly, while 19% use it monthly or several times per year.

In other words, around one-third of the adult population in the U.S. is active to some degree on LinkedIn.

However, here’s the real meat of the data to sink your teeth into — a significant percentage of that growth has occurred within the last year alone. CivicScience data shows that usage hovered around 25% since 2016, but then took off like a rocket ship in 2018, growing 31% from Q2 of 2018 to today.

What’s more, growth occurred across all use-frequency categories. Just take a look at this graph (data has been aggregated to users and non-users):

What could account for this kind of growth?

Perhaps more people are turning to new outlets for job searching because of a lagging job market. Despite a low unemployment rate, underemployment still remains an issue to contend with, where part-time gigs are more plentiful than full-time jobs with benefits.

When looking at a breakdown of how people use LinkedIn, CivicScience found that 45% of LinkedIn users use the app for job-searching. However, slightly more people use the app for networking and making new professional connections (50%).

These two functions certainly aren’t mutually exclusive; about half of job-searching users also use the app for networking, while inversely, about half of networking users also use the app for job-searching.

At the end of the day, job-searching and networking were the most popular reasons for using LinkedIn. Each of those options far outweighed other functions, such as using it for career/employment advice, industry news, making friends/social connections, or other unidentified reasons.

Mobile Usage and the LinkedIn Connection

Nearly half of LinkedIn’s U.S. base is taking advantage of the app’s new mobile-friendly job-searching features. According to the company, the employment angle is vital to the app’s success, which as it turns out, is all about speed. In other words, the faster you can reply to a job ad, the better your chances of landing that job. That’s where smartphones become key.

Could growing mobile usage trends have something to do with LinkedIn’s recent climb? CivicScience found that LinkedIn users are also more likely than non-users to be early adopters of another rapidly-growing technology — mobile retail banking. In fact, they’re twice as likely to use their smartphones for retail banking needs, such as paying bills and transferring funds.

Further adding to the LinkedIn / mobile banking correlation are data showing that both growth trends took off around the same time — Q2 of 2018. At that point, U.S. adults who use a mobile device for banking more than half of the time rose from 26% to 36% today. That’s pretty close to LinkedIn’s numbers. Click the arrow to view LinkedIn’s time graph again for comparison.

According to the data, it’s clear that Q2 of 2018 represents some sort of turning point for both LinkedIn and mobile banking apps. Why exactly is still unknown, but overall it seems only natural that in an increasingly mobile world, the job market too would be transformed by smartphone use, and LinkedIn is at the helm.

CivicScience will be digging deeper and exploring LinkedIn’s growth in connection to mobile usage, as well as demographics, job market trends, and other juicy details in future posts.