How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Social networking 101: Do the guys really beat the girls?

June 28, 2011: 10:43 AM ET

Men are savvier online professional networkers than women. So concludes a recent study by LinkedIn (LNKD).

The study garnered lots of attention in the blogosphere, but are LinkedIn's findings really correct?

The professional networking site picked seven large companies -- such as Best Buy (BBY), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Lockheed Martin (LMT) -- and counted the number of "connections" that each company's registered LinkedIn users had.

The results: Men had more connections than women.

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's "connection director," deciphers the results this way: Women "can sometimes shy away from networking because they associate it with schmoozing or doling out business cards." She adds, "In reality, it's about building relationships before you actually need them."

This is true, but here's the thing: LinkedIn's researchers ignore the reality that networking isn't only about the number of connections you make. It's about the quality and depth of those connections as well.

To that point, the Pew Research Center released a study on June 16 that analyzes the user bases of several social networking sites including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as LinkedIn. Pew found that 52% of Facebook's users sign on everyday, while only 6% of LinkedIn users do. Moreover, 44% of LinkedIn users log on to the site less than once a month.

Another interesting fact that emerged is that LinkedIn users (there are more than 100 million in total) are predominantly male (63%), while 53% of Facebook's 750 million or so users are female. And it is that female-leaning Facebook universe that's "more likely to have a larger number of close social ties," report the Pew researchers. The Pew study concluded that that only 7% of a typical Facebook user's "friends" are people they have never met.

Back to the LinkedIn study, where the measure of "savvy connections" is quantity, not quality--the latter being the type you likely need to advance your career. LinkedIn senior PR manager Krista Canfield acknowledges that its researchers didn't analyze the strength of employees' connections; it was strictly a numbers game.

Which makes us wonder: Are guys really savvier connectors than girls? What do you think?

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