How LinkedIn Grew By Merging Professionals With Social Networking
LinkedIn has 500 million members. All professionals can benefit from LinkedIn. Whether you’re searching for a job or whether you’re trying to generate more B2B leads, LinkedIn is the most useful business networking platform.
LinkedIn was the byproduct of a brilliant idea of the minds behind PayPal and SocialNet. LinkedIn was created by Reid Hoffman in 2002, and ever since it’s been a powerful tool for businesses and professionals.
If you’re curious about the LinkedIn growth strategy, continue reading to discover their history and what they did to earn their legacy.
Why the World Needed LinkedIn
Let’s go back in time to the early 2000s.
Social media platforms such as MySpace were booming. The social media sphere was the best place to make new friends and even date. But social media platforms of that time lacked the resources to make business connections.
Reid Hoffman realized this. Hoffman is one of the leading entrepreneurs and minds behind the tech movement. He formed SocialNet in 1997 and was on the board of directors for PayPal when it first formed.
With his connections and tech knowledge, Hoffman crafted a team of his tech colleagues and first started drafting the idea of LinkedIn. They launched the platform in 2003.
Why did the world need LinkedIn? There were limited resources to make business connections. You either had the contacts and networked your way to success or you struggled. Simple as that.
There was also a disconnet between employers that needed talented employees, and talented employees who couldn’t find work.
LinkedIn provided a solution.
How the Tech Scene Came Into Play
As stated previously, LinkedIn is the brainchild of tech industry innovators. Hoffman formed his social network SocialNet and was also the vice president of PayPal before the platform was purchased by eBay.
Hoffman wasn’t alone. Hoffman received help from several colleagues, one of which was Allen Blue.
LinkedIn was co-founded by Allen Blue, who was a product designer at SocialNet and also worked at Fujitsu. Both were major figures in the Silicon Valley scene at the time.
Initially, Hoffman and Blue kept their network small. They wanted to ensure the platform worked before inviting users to join.
When they were comfortable with their product, they invited their Silicon Valley colleagues to join in. Soon, LinkedIn had over 100 members. Eventually, creating a LinkedIn account was crucial if you wanted to work or invest in Silicon Valley.
Their Odd Business Model
Another aspect of LinkedIn’s success was an odd one: they had a weird business model.
Actually, their business model didn’t even exist until later down the road. That’s because LinkedIn’s first goal was to attract users and engage them. The business plan came next.
This may seem like a careless approach, but it worked.
LinkedIn’s initial goal was to improve the business networking process, which they achieved. After they conquered that goal, they could find ways to profit off of their idea.
Challenges That LinkedIn Faced
LinkedIn faced many challenges, especially in the beginning. The platform formed at the height of the economic recession. It became difficult to raise capital and gain investors.
Another challenge LinkedIn faced was breaking down the social media perception barrier. At the time, social media was seen as a pastime for teenagers or a place for celebrities to share news and pictures.
Business networking via social media was unheard of and many professionals scoffed at the idea of LinkedIn.
These two main factors were the reasons why user acquisition was such a challenge for the platform. However, the LinkedIn crew put everything they had into growing the brand.
They developed a strategy to impress their colleagues and ended up making LinkedIn the place to do business online.
How did they create a strategy? They discovered a secret to success…
Focus on Strength Rather Than Improve a Weakness
LinkedIn had many weaknesses and suffered through hardship in the beginning. However, the minds behind LinkedIn realized they could focus on the company’s strengths to achieve growth.
For example, the company started monitoring where they were generating their leads. They measured email signups and homepage signups.
They discovered 40% of their signups were achieved via their homepage. However, emails only accounted for 4% of signups.
How did they work with this statistic? They emphasized their marketing efforts for their home and landing pages.
They invested in marketing strategies to grow their homepage organically. They redesigned their homepage and website to improve user experience.
This keen insight helped them grow exponentially in only a few months.
They Started Offering Products
As LinkedIn started receiving attention, they started experimenting with monetization methods. They discovered three core strategies that worked: advertising, subscriptions, and job listings.
At first, LinkedIn had no desire to sell ad space. However, they eventually decided it was worth it.
After a couple of years, LinkedIn generated impressive traffic and attracted a vast demographic. They realized they could not only attract sales but also attract relevant advertisers from many different markets.
In addition, the minds behind LinkedIn realized they had a unique platform where businesses could actually benefit from their advertising investment.
LinkedIn also started offering a subscription platform.
A paid subscription to the service enables businesses and professionals to have improved communications with other members, and have their LinkedIn profile highlighted to be found easier in searches. They called this feature LinkedIn Premium and it’s still a widely used asset.
This is also where job listings come into play.
Individuals on LinkedIn Premium are given top-of-the-pile application spots. Businesses and recruiters appear at the top of job searches and are matched with the highest-rated professionals. A win/win for everyone.
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