State of LinkedIn: The Social Media Dark Horse

The dark horse of social networks, LinkedIn released its Q4 and 2013 annual report detailing how the network is doing, from user adoption to overall revenue to advertising. Some of the high points from the report include:

  • LinkedIn now stands at 277 million monthly active users
  • LinkedIn monthly active user growth for 4Q2013 was 7% – faster that either Facebook or Twitter
  • LinkedIn is approaching $1.61 revenue per active user – closing in on Facebook

files_shareholder_com_downloads_ABEA-69T44N_2950419160x0x723940_f4e8258e-a64c-4f6d-a8fd-07aa3ac27c0e_2013_Q4_Earnings_Slides_pdfSource: LinkedIn

In terms of growth rate, here’s the surprise from the dark horse: LinkedIn is growing its membership at a rate more than double Facebook and nearly double Twitter:

Linkedin Report.001

This is especially relevant in comparing Twitter and LinkedIn as they’ve had similar market share for some time. In late 2012, LinkedIn’s growth rate eclipsed Twitter’s:

Linkedin Report.002

When we compare revenue (especially revenue per user), LinkedIn members are almost twice as valuable as Twitter members and closing in on the same value as Facebook members, owing to the fact that LinkedIn derives its revenue from three different income streams. In fact, until Facebook started heavily punishing brand Pages in late 2013, LinkedIn’s revenue per user was the highest of any social network – and they accomplished that without punishing any particular set of users, such as businesses.

Linkedin Report.004

Between LinkedIn’s HR software and premium memberships, the network is much more resistant to advertising market changes, as only 25-30% of their revenue is vulnerable to that particular niche.

files_shareholder_com_downloads_ABEA-69T44N_2950419160x0x723940_f4e8258e-a64c-4f6d-a8fd-07aa3ac27c0e_2013_Q4_Earnings_Slides_pdfSource: LinkedIn

This makes LinkedIn not only a more stable investment, but also theoretically less likely to over-advertise to members or to over-monetize (and thus drive away) any particular segment of their audience.

What does all of this data mean for you as a marketer or public relations professional?

LinkedIn’s diversity of revenue means that the network is on much more sure financial footing than its competitors. Changes to it are less likely to be rapidly punitive to any particular user segment, whereas for heavily advertising-driven social networks like Facebook, a brand could suddenly find itself without voice or reach. LinkedIn’s deep revenues in HR software and premium memberships also means they’ll continue to focus on the quality and value of their members, which in turn means that LinkedIn will continue to be an excellent data source for marketers and public relations professionals. LinkedIn’s growth rates, both for revenue and for audience, indicate that it’s a place you’ll want to be active on for a long time to come.

Any PR professional worth their salt should have a LinkedIn account and be active on it, engaging with journalists, publishers, influencers, and influential groups.

If you’re representing a brand or company, be sure to invest time and energy into building out your LinkedIn Company Page. Use all of the advanced features like audience segmentation, Sponsored Updates, Showcase Pages, and ads as appropriate to boost the reach you’re getting. Post your great media hits to your LinkedIn Company Page, then amplify those to the influential segments of your audience.

If you need a way to think about the three major social networks we’ve covered in this series, the best wrap-up summary is that if you need broad reach, Facebook is the place to go. If you need public data streams and public conversation, choose Twitter. If you need high-quality professional influencers and engagement, choose LinkedIn. A responsible PR or marketing professional should be proficient in the strengths, weaknesses, and tactics of all three networks.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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