With the launch of a new feature that allows members to publish blog-post-style content, LinkedIn has ramped up its push to convince users that it is more than a repository for résumés.
The professional networking site is aiming to become the virtual town square for our professional lives, a place where its 277 million members go daily to read the news, show off their latest projects, network with peers and keep tabs on who has been given a promotion.
“That’s one of the big reasons we’ve invested heavily in our content efforts,” said Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn’s head of content products. “We believe that every professional reads some sort of content on a daily basis about their company or their competitors or their industry, just general professional knowledge.”
The publishing tool, LinkedIn hopes, is yet another reason to stick around on its site. The service enables users to publish posts in a bloglike format.
The project comes as some analysts have begun to worry that the site might be losing momentum.
Kathleen Smith is one LinkedIn member whose use of the site embodies both the inroads the company has made on engagement and the challenges it faces in boosting it further. The chief marketing officer at Falls Church-based ClearedJobs.net said she visits LinkedIn five to six times a day.
“I log in in the morning just to see what my network’s talking about. . . . I know of a few people who post really good articles, and I’ll be on the lookout for that,” Smith said. “And then I’ll post two to three things.”
But Smith also said that she has built more business relationships on Facebook and that she prefers to keep up with industry thought leaders on Twitter. Also, she said, she is frequently frustrated by posts from other members that are not useful to her.
“I unfortunately think it’s gotten too spammy,” Smith said.
One of LinkedIn’s key engagement-building initiatives has been Influencers, in which prominent leaders and thinkers post original essays and musings. The roster of Influencers includes President Obama, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson, and the company says the average Influencer post is viewed 31,000 times.
Some of LinkedIn’s acquisitions also have been geared at building user engagement. In February, in a deal valued at $120 million, the company purchased Bright, which uses data to match prospective job candidates with employers. Last April, it acquired Pulse, a news reader for mobile phones. And in 2012, it purchased Slideshare, an online tool for sharing presentations.
There is evidence that some of these efforts have paid off: In the second quarter of 2013, LinkedIn pulled in 11.7 billion page views and recorded 143 million unique visitors, both all-time highs.
But during the past two quarters, LinkedIn’s engagement levels have dipped slightly, with the site attracting fewer visitors and fewer page views. In a February conference call with investors, chief executive Jeff Weiner said the slip was, in part, a result of an unusual burst in activity the previous year connected to the rollout of several new products, including the popular Influencers program.
Also, he said, many users are viewing the site on their mobile devices, which is not tracked by comScore. The company’s mobile growth is “dramatically outpacing” its growth on desktop Web, and now accounts for 40 percent of LinkedIn’s engagement, he said.
Still, some analysts and investors are wary of the drop-off and have questioned whether it is an early indication that the company’s streak of explosive growth is slowing. Gene Munster, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said he was willing to take into account that the fourth quarter included the holiday season, typically a slow time of year for hiring and career changes.
“It’s understandable that there is seasonality, but it is a change . . . from the hyper-growth story” seen previously, Munster said.