Unemployment continues to sink, with official unemployment at 5.5% and total labor underutilization at 11%. Given this backdrop, how is the professional social network doing? Has LinkedIn’s pivot to become a content marketing site and publisher been a success? Let’s look at the numbers.
LinkedIn’s network continues to grow at a healthy clip, around 5% quarter over quarter:
At 364 million total members, LinkedIn’s network has a stronger member count than Twitter or Instagram.
Marketing Solutions – meaning advertising revenue – is where LinkedIn stumbled in Q1. The first quarter is always soft for LinkedIn, but this Q1 2015 was especially soft:
While speculation, a significant contributor to this may be that LinkedIn’s new advertising solutions such as Network Display and Lead Accelerator are available only to a small portion of its advertisers. Most advertisers are stuck with the old LinkedIn self serve ads and sponsored posts; the former underperform other forms of display advertising.
Revenue Per User
Fortunately for LinkedIn, its revenue streams are more diverse than just advertising. Talent Solutions makes up the bulk of its revenue, followed by Marketing Solutions, then Premium memberships.
The dip in revenue per users was fueled entirely by the performance of Marketing Solutions; Talent Solutions and Premium memberships remained flat, quarter over quarter.
With Marketing Solutions falling down, LinkedIn has made strategic choices to diversify its income with the acquisition of training platform Lynda.com. Lynda.com was already profitable, so LinkedIn’s revenue stream will be bolstered with it; Lynda.com may also provide additional ad inventory for its Network Display product.
For marketers looking for a greater impact from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, you may want to look past the native self-serve platform. If your website has at least 20,000 unique visitors a month, you may qualify for their higher level ad platform solutions. While it will cost more money, the newer features could potentially work better.
For marketers who don’t have massive budgets or huge website traffic, you may need to think outside the box for leveraging LinkedIn’s network without using their Marketing Solutions software. Content such as LinkedIn Pulse has publicly accessible URLs, so if you have better advertising results with platforms like Google AdWords, you might consider using AdWords to drive traffic to Pulse thought leadership posts.
For unpaid results, look to LinkedIn Groups. Frequent, relevant, valuable participation in Groups can often drive better results at a lower cost than the native advertising system.
Ultimately, while LinkedIn’s network is a powerful, focused community, there are caveats for marketers and communicators. When more of their Marketing Solutions technology opens up to everyone, regardless of company size, expect to see greater value driven by LinkedIn.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology