Professional networking: Exploring differences between offline and online networking



Professional networking has mostly been researched in offline contexts. With professional social networking sites (SNS), such as LinkedIn or the German platform XING, professional networking can be extended to online contexts. Therefore, this study examines if people differ in the intensity of offline and online networking and if influence factors differentially predict offline and online networking. An exploratory online survey of working people (N = 326, Mage = 37 years, 56% women) revealed that mean values among the four different networking types did not differ significantly. However, people can be divided into four clusters of networkers (the minimal, the heavy, the mainly offline, and the mainly online networkers). When looking at influence factors, there is a positive association of people’s knowing about the benefits of networking and their networking intensity for all types of networking offline and online. Beyond that, the negative affective influence of anxiety towards unknown people on networking shows an interaction effect with networking type as it is stronger for offline networking than it is for online networking. The results indicate that professional social networking sites might help people with their networking pursuits by reducing negative emotions associated with networking, thereby contributing to a social compensation effect.

Professional networking; professional online networking; professional social networking sites; social compensation hypothesis; offline and online comparison
Author biographies

Lea Baumann

Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien

Sonja Utz

Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien University of Tübingen


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