Free LinkedIn is Dead
I contributed the following quote to the Career Sherpa’s post 31 EXPERTS SHARE PREDICTIONS FOR JOB SEARCH IN 2017:
The assimilation of LinkedIn into Microsoft will mean an acceleration of new features along with higher fees.
I have somewhat of a unique perspective on the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft as I have been through 2 high-profile tech acquisitions in the last 15+ years:
- Agere Inc. was acquired by Lucent Technologies for $415M in 2000
- LifeSize Communications was acquired by Logitech for $405M in 2009
The chipset that Agere Inc. produced is now profitable and alive as part of Intel. LifeSize Communications was later spun out of Logitech and is still alive but… barely.
Life After an Acquisition
In both cases, money was invested in the acquired company with the expectations that there would be rapid returns. Microsoft bought LinkedIn to make money and I am quite sure that the folks at LinkedIn are under tremendous pressure to produce profitable results for their now parent company. That is life after being acquired.
LinkedIn made money from three primary sources prior to the acquisition:
- Premium memberships
- Recruiting packages
I like to claim that LinkedIn was drinking from both ends of the funnel as they collect money from end users who were looking for jobs and from employers who were looking to hire. They were serving two masters which in my opinion is a bad long-term idea.
As someone who has tried to use LinkedIn advertising, it is not very effective and it is expensive. LinkedIn does not have the demographical information that FaceBook has to effectively target ads.
LinkedIn needs to grow revenue and they will do this by starving off the free version of LinkedIn.
The Rise of Sales Navigator
LinkedIn needs to move users to one of three paid solutions: Business/Job Seeker, Sales Navigator or Talent Solutions.
How will they do this? By removing features from the free version, it is now “pay to play.”
If you have been looking for a job using LinkedIn advanced search and have a free account you have probably run into the limits on how many searches you can do per month. You have very limited visibility to who has looked at your profile and next they are removing tags and notes from all accounts except Sales Navigator.
I recently posted the following article Say Goodbye to Free LinkedIn – Meet Sales Navigator – LinkedIn is overhauling its website—and we’re pumped! and I got a lot of comments.
Sorry but I am not pumped.
I use the notes feature to help me remember stuff as I suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember …. Stuff).
Sales Navigator has been around for a while and it is LinkedIn’s first foray outside of the talent space. Pushing users to Sales Navigator is LinkedIn’s next area for revenue growth and in my honest opinion, this is where LinkedIn will be spending their development dollars. The talent space is fairly saturated.
Pay to Play
I know from my experiences at my 2 tech startups, LinkedIn is under a lot of pressure to generate revenue.
I was an early beta user of LinkedIn Profinder but I found it to be very flawed for my business model as it only shows me to regional users (Texas) yet my clients are all over the world. Now, they want me to upgrade from my now defunct business package ($239.40/year) to a Business Plus ($575.88/year). I could also upgrade to a Sales Navigator Professional ($779.88/year) but why would I do that? ARG!! They are getting pretty aggressive to get me to upgrade.
I can justify paying for one of these packages through my business.
If you are employed, LinkedIn writes in their frequently asked questions (FAQ) page:
Can I expense my Premium membership?
Yes! Many employers find LinkedIn Premium so valuable that they’ll pay for their employees’ memberships. You can access your receipts anytime from the payment history page.
Will your employer pay for your LinkedIn premium membership? If they do please comment below.
The free version is now dead or at least near death. It has been neutered.
The real losers are the unemployed job seekers or those necessity entrepreneurs who need the functionality.
A good example is my friend John Lewis who was a successful scuba professional until he suffered a major stroke in August 2014. He has since been re-inventing himself as a freelance writer and editor or as I like to say a necessity entrepreneur. As any freelance professional can tell you, LinkedIn is vital to developing new business but shelling out $575 or more is difficult if not impossible when you are getting started.
The Future of Free LinkedIn
My prediction is LinkedIn will continue to produce new features and products to entice users to buy one of the premium products. They will also continue to reduce, limit or eliminate features in the free product to make it effectively a dead product.
I can only imagine what is going on in the product management meetings at LinkedIn. I would love to be a fly on the wall as their product managers grapple with how to serve the demands from the mother ship, Microsoft, to grow revenue.
The free version of LinkedIn is dead. May it rest in peace.