State of Social Q4 2016: The End of LinkedIn

We have kept track of LinkedIn as a publicly-traded company almost since its IPO in 2012. As of the end of calendar year 2016, LinkedIn has officially come to an end as a publicly-traded company, and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation.

What this means for our State of Social series is that we no longer have visibility into the key metrics of LinkedIn such as user base, growth, engagement, advertising, etc. While Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses Linkedin in broad terms in the Microsoft earnings calls, the level of detail isn’t sufficient to continue LinkedIn.

The Last Look at LinkedIn

Let’s recap where LinkedIn left off. Quarter over quarter membership had been growing:

Less than 1 in 4 users was active, however:

Financially, LinkedIn was also flat:

In the most recent call, CEO Satya Nadella indicated that overall sessions on Linkedin were up 20% year over year; this represents the same consistent 4-ish% growth the network had been experiencing previously.

Most noteworthy was this remark by CFO Amy Hood:

Our real goal for LinkedIn is over time, of course, I’m sure they’ll want to take advantage as we build new services together, of some of our infrastructure assets. But in the short term the most important thing is they continue to add value in usage and great experience for their members. And so I have really no intention of messing with that, in terms of capital expenditures in the short and, you know, next six months for sure.

In other words, Microsoft will not be substantially tampering with LinkedIn’s core operations for at least 6 months, meaning that while it will have incremental improvements, there are unlikely to be any significant sea changes until the second half of 2017 or beyond.

What Does This Mean for Marketers and Communicators?

The above guidance indicates that Microsoft will keep LinkedIn as it is for some time; we would expect eventual deeper integration into Bing Ads, and Bing advertising targeting to improve significantly with the addition of LinkedIn data. If your paid media plans don’t already call for at least a portion of your budget for Bing, you may wish to pilot a test on that platform.

Beyond that, we see no indications to drastically change your LinkedIn strategy. Continue to use it as a thought leadership platform, continue to publish regularly and frequently, continue to participate or found groups on the service.

The Future of LinkedIn and the State of Social

With the discontinuation of formal metrics, we will still provide general guidance as possible from Microsoft’s earnings calls, but we turn our eyes to the future and the IPO of Snapchat in 2017 as the next major component of the State of Social.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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