Sunday, 30th January 2011
Tim Buckley Owen
LinkedIn – the “Facebook for suits” – seems to be living up to its establishment reputation by launching a conventional Initial Public Offering that is in stark contrast to the approach to the market adopted by its more popular rival.
It was on January 27 that LinkedIn confirmed earlier rumours reported by Reuters that it intended to go to market. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs has had to deal with the ire of American investors, locked out of Facebook’s less conventional fundraising bid (LiveWire background here) because of concerns reported in the Wall Street Journal that it might violate United States securities laws (subscription may be required).
So what makes LinkedIn special in investors’ eyes? Well it’s for business, obviously – so sits alongside services like ZoomInfo and Jigsaw (reviewed with LinkedIn in VIP 78 last May or purchase full report here) or its European rival Xing rather than Facebook. And with 90 million members it’s an extraordinarily valuable tool for crowdsourced horizon scanning, instant metrics and targeted ads.
Among a plethora of technological initiatives recently, it’s just launched two visualisation tools: InMaps, which allows members to see what their personal network looks like, and Swarm, an animated tag cloud that shows what LinkedIn members in specified interest groups are searching, blogging and sharing on, as well as highlighting new jobs posted.
Of course, the concept of InMaps is not new; Leadership Directories started its own Leadership Networks service back in 2007 (LiveWire coverage here). But that’s a pre-packaged product covering leaders only, whereas LinkedIn’s offering is dynamic and includes potentially anyone.
You could also be uncharitable and say that LinkedIn’s Swarm is just lots of people buzzing around in one place because everyone else is – offering little insight into what’s really new and important. And there’s also some evidence of concern at the robustness of LinkedIn’s crowdsourced research findings.
A recent analysis of its members’ career histories led LinkedIn to claim that promotions were no longer concentrated in January but increasingly spread throughout the year, and that “millennials” – those born in the 1980s and 1990s – were leading the trend. The findings look good – but at least two respondents have queried the methodology behind them.
Finally, precision targeting of ads is another LinkedIn forte – and the company has just announced the emergence from beta of its self-service pay-per-click offering, LinkedIn Ads. Again, looks good – but that hasn’t prevented MediaPost from wondering whether it might prove “jarring for members” if an ad hits too close to home.
As the first social networking company to start the process of becoming publicly traded, LinkedIn is attracting “significant interest”, Reuters reports. But, it adds, “exactly how attractive it is, is an open question”.
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