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LinkedIn aims to grow beyond offering contact info


By Brandon Bailey

San Jose Mercury News

(MCT)

If you’re on LinkedIn, then you know some of Deep Nishar’s work.

Nishar is senior vice president for products and user experience at the professional networking site, which means he oversees, among other things, the online services that LinkedIn offers to more than 225 million members around the world.

LinkedIn reported nearly $1 billion in revenue last year, with more than half coming from fees paid by employers and recruiters who use the site to find job candidates. But the company wants to be more than just an archive of resumes and contact lists. Increasingly, it’s also trying to become a one-stop source for news and information about business trends, professional advice and other material that can help its members get ahead.

Nishar explained some of the thinking behind this strategy in a recent interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.

QUESTION: Why is LinkedIn adding all this new content for its members?

ANSWER: One way that professionals become great at what they do is when they are able to consume knowledge and insight. This has been a long planned strategy: Nearly three years ago, we built LinkedIn Today, which shares third-party (Web) publishers’ content to our members. We have 1.5 million publishers around the world that carry our share button (on their sites).

Last October we launched LinkedIn Influencers, (a series of online essays by well-known CEOs, top political leaders and other celebrities). We have over 300 influencers and on average they have each published more than 15 posts.

And then there is user-generated content from professionals. We have member groups where people can talk about specific professional topics they care about.

Q: Why put so much into this effort, when the biggest chunk of your revenue comes from your resumes and recruiting business?

A: Every time a member is more engaged, they do more (on the site) and they enrich their profile, which creates a lot of value for our Talent Solutions (recruiting business), because now you are more findable. A member with a full profile is more likely to find an opportunity via a recruiter on LinkedIn, because they are more discoverable and opportunities come to them.

Q: It seems this could also help you sell advertising. Will LinkedIn’s ad business (which the company calls Marketing Solutions) always be smaller than the recruiting business?

A: It’s great to have a diversified revenue stream, especially right now with the move toward mobile, when (other companies) that depend on advertising as their sole revenue stream are having some challenges. To me, Marketing Solutions is about enabling conversation with the right audiences. The audience on LinkedIn is great for business-to-business and high-end business-to-consumer marketeers. These are decision makers, people whose average household incomes are nearing six figures in the United States.

Q: How do user habits differ on LinkedIn, compared with social media sites like Facebook?

A: One way is that people largely use LinkedIn during business hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And on the weekends it tapers off. It’s slightly different on mobile devices. But I believe with other social networks, typically the activity starts picking up toward the weekend and during the evening times.

Q: I’ve heard people complain about the LinkedIn feature that repeatedly prompts members to endorse each other for specific skills. Some people feel it’s too “spammy” or not very meaningful.

A: Since we launched the product late last year, we’ve had over 1 billion endorsements. We get about 50 million a week. So it’s a very popular feature.

When you look at someone’s profile, you can quickly see their top skills based on how many endorsements they have. Someone on my team endorsed me for “awesomeness.” It was a kind gesture; it’s an inside joke for us. But if you look at my profile, you’ll find “product management” is my highest endorsed skill, which makes sense because I’ve spent over two decades building products. “Awesomeness” is not my highest-rated skill; I haven’t spent 20 years being awesome.

(You can also consider) who is making the endorsement. It becomes a very powerful resource, both in terms of helping us understand our key strengths, and also telling us who in our networks or other networks has those key strengths.

Q: LinkedIn used to advise members not to connect with someone unless they actually know the person. But I’m getting requests from people I’ve never met. Have you changed your advice?

A: No, we always recommend that you connect with people you know in a professional context. But these things work out over time. People focus on the kinds of people they want to interact with. It’s not just about collecting numbers of contacts; it’s about quality relationships.


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