LinkedIn CEO on ‘grown up’ social networking

Posted on February 29th, 2008

Online business network, LinkedIn has almost 20 million members worldwide and recently opened its European office in London. During 2007, LinkedIn doubled in size in all of its major regions including Europe and signed up its millionth UK member in October, making Blighty the largest market outside the US.

LinkedIn CEO

On the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook.

LinkedIn and Facebook are very different services. LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional network, Facebook is a social network. There’s certainly overlap but if you look, the average LinkedIn member is 41 years old and has $109,000 in household income. They are professionals using it for professional purposes. It allows people to gather unique and valuable information, contact and communicate and manage their relationships in a very scalable way and reach out to people in a very effective way. So LinkedIn is all about making the professional more productive.
 
Benefits of LinkedIn over Facebook?
 
We’re about to hit 20 million members and we add 1.2 million users every month, so 300,000 people join every week. And these people are joining because they’re all professional and because they’re all over the world – half of them are in the US and half of them are outside the US. What it’s doing its allowing knowledge workers around the world to find and work with each other in this global economy in which we all live. So it’s in many ways fulfilling the promise of the internet by creating efficiency and allowing anybody to participate in the global economy no matter where they are or where they live.
People use LinkedIn to do searches. If you go into the advance search field for example, you can say I’m looking for a product manager who’s trained in agile software development in Silicon Valley. If you put those search terms in you’re going to find thousands of product managers in Silicon Valley who are trained in agile development. Then you might want to say let’s narrow the search, so I’m looking for a product manager who’s in the internet industry in Silicon Valley who’s trained in agile development. And then you can put in names of companies you’re interested in and get the list of folks who claim that they’re experienced in that and you can reach out to them. So we have an advice network.
The type of thing I’m describing to you, you can’t do it on Facebook. Facebook’s designed differently. LinkedIn is where one presents his professional self so that you can be found and so that you can leverage your relationships to accomplish a task.
 
Other key LinkedIn features.
 
Another thing we have is an advice network, it’s called LinkedIn Answers. So if you’re interested in how many people live in London, you go to Google and you can find that out but if you’re saying where should we build our European headquarters and what are the pros and cons of various choices, you can get advice from other professionals.
So the question are served up to people in your network and then it’s also served up to people inside of LinkedIn who are interested in a subject like international business. Your friends want to give you advice because they’re your friends and the others want to give you advice because they want to help you, they might be consultants who know something about it – and there are also people competing. What happens is they’re competing to get best answer, again to further enhance their professional self. The more times you get a best answer designation, that adds to your profile. All of that says this person knows what the heck he’s talking about in this area.
There’s also job posting job links on LinkedIn and so we know that people are searching for jobs and they’re networking their way closer to the person that posted the job, they’re getting introduced by friends who know the person that posted the job who add credibility and say this person’s good.
 
LinkedIn user views?
 
All the time we hear about candidates who found the perfect job on LinkedIn, we hear about companies who hired the perfect person on LinkedIn. We hear stories about companies who didn’t hire somebody because of the reference checking they were able to do on LinkedIn, so you can find people who worked with somebody or went to school with somebody. So people are doing better reference checks because of LinkedIn. And then we also hear about candidates who are able to reference check their potential bosses or companies and they don’t end up choosing those companies because of it. It’s as much finding the dream job as avoiding the disaster.
We just heard a story about a hedge fund manger in Boston. He was trying to learn about an investment opportunity in India. His company spends $1m per year on market research tools and none of the tools were able to help him find experts to find out more about the investment opportunity. He found [through LinkedIn] 13 people who had worked for that company or worked for competitors in India and he reached out to them on the network and ended up communicating with them, learning enough about the opportunity that he made a $50m investment and by the end of the year, it was worth $300m.
 
Accusations that LinkedIn is getting overrun with sales people and recruitment people.

My advice is only connect to people you know. I don’t connect with recruiters. If any recruiter reaches out to me, I decline it. We have a button that says ‘I don’t know this person’. When someone sends you an invitation to connect, if you hit [that] button, we will restrict the person’s account. This is another big difference between LinkedIn and Facebook right. If somebody posts a photo on LinkedIn that is considered inappropriate, if three people tag the photo as inappropriate, unprofessional or promotional, the photo comes down. So the photo comes down and the member is notified and has to contact our customer serviced group to get a new photo up there. If a person asks a questions in the answers area and it’s considered promotional the question comes down. So we empower the community to maintain the quality.
The second answer to the question is we actually look at the behaviour inside the network. We run reports and we ask who is doing what in the network and we try to monitor the quality to see if there are any quantitative trends that would indicate that the network is being abused or that the quality is diminishing. All of the data says it’s not being overrun. Everything that we have seen says in no way is the experience is degrading, in fact the experience is increasing because more people have complete profiles and higher quality people are in the network. It’s now very common for big name folks to be on LinkedIn, CEOs of companies, certainly executives, executive vice-presidents and a lot of very well-known people are on there now – so it’s credible.
 
Third party applications.
 
We actually do not yet have third party applications running inside of LinkedIn. We announced that we were embracing Google’s Open Social platform and we will have applications by third parties on LinkedIn later in the year. There’s a pent up demand of companies that are interested in doing that. We will approve every company in order to make sure we maintain this professionalism. That’s coming later in the year.
 
LinkedIn on other sites.
 
Rolling out that functionality on businesweek.com is imminent. It’ll be coming very soon. It’s a really cool feature. The idea is let’s enrich the world wide web by allowing you to leverage your LinkedIn network in other places. So if you’re on Business Week and you’re reading an article about IBM you can hover your mouse over the word IBM and you will see a drop down that shows how many people in your network are connected to IBM and then you can click on it and you can learn more about who exactly are those people and what exactly is your connection into IBM.
 
Competition from other social network technologies like Second Life.
 
We are big believers in focus and our focus is on making professionals more effective and productive. When one looks at [other networks] they’re interesting, those are fun sites that are being used by lots of people, but that’s not us. We are really focused on keeping a clean user experience, it’s a professional look and feel that allows people to accomplish their tasks and gather valuable information quickly.
We don’t value ourselves based on how many page views we serve up, we value ourselves based on how useful people find the tool. We can evaluate that by looking at things like how often people are coming back, how long they’re staying on the site, how many people are buying subscriptions, what are the attrition rates of subscriptions. Those are the kind of things that we focus on and where we sort of assess our value.
 
LinkedIn’s future plans.

We are in the process of rolling out a redesigned website – it’s going to have pretty different look. It’s in Beta testing right now. It allows us to run the Open Social applications – there’s an area where you can add and drop modules on the homepage. We’ve integrated news and through that we also allow you to share those news articles with your colleagues and we show you which are the most read articles inside of your company. So that’s a pretty significant change. There’s a bunch of stuff that does make for a better user experience related to network updates – who answered what questions, who asked what question, who took a new job, who added a photo. It’s just a good design – it’s menu driven, instead of tab driven.
We will be rolling out LinkedIn in multiple languages. We’re already the largest professional network in Europe and we have not made it available in a foreign language yet so in 2008 we will be making it available in a number of foreign languages. It would obviously be those [languages] that serve the big markets – initially our focus is Europe.
We’re incredibly excited about it. When you see how business is being conducted across the European continent, across these country lines and you see how successful LinkedIn has already been in English only, it gives us great confidence and excitement about what’s to come.
We’re not cutting any corners here and we’re not trying to do anything superficial or shallow, we’re trying to build with quality, build the infrastructure and network of a strong durable company and have exceptionally high standards for everything that we’re doing and that’s really critical to what we’re trying to become. Jump in the water’s warm!