LinkedIn Hits 575 Million Members

LinkedIn Member Counts (August 2018)
LinkedIn Member Counts (August 2018)

LinkedIn continues to grow its global membership base at an impressive clip. The firm reached 500 million members sixteen months ago and has added nearly 15 million members per quarter since then, recently reaching 575 million.

North America continues as their most important market with over 150 million members in the United States, 15 million in Canada, and 12M in Mexico.

AsiaPac is also growing strongly with India recently hitting the 50 million member mark and China poised to soon pass the mark (42 million members). China was slower to develop but has grown rapidly since a localized version was launched a few years ago.

In Europe, there are at least 14 countries with one million members or greater. The United Kingdom is the third largest anglophone market with 25 million members. France (16M), Italy (12M), Spain (10M), and Benelux (10M) all represent strong markets.

LinkedIn is relatively underrepresented in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) as it continues to compete against German language professional network XING.

Other Anglophone markets include Australia (9M), South Africa (6M) The Philippines (6M), Nigeria (3M), Singapore (2M), Hong Kong (1M), New Zealand (1M), and Kenya (1M).

LinkedIn has also enjoyed success in Latin America with Brazil long being a significant market (34M). The firm also has a significant presence in Colombia (6M), Argentina (6M), and Chile (4M).

LinkedIn was barred from Russia several years ago.

Monthly active user figures are estimated at around 25% of members.

Membership, segment, and usage statistics for LinkedIn are less available since the firm was acquired by Microsoft in December 2016. Revenue, however, continues to accelerate, growing 37% to $1.464 billion in Q4 2018. Q4 marked the fifth-straight quarter of revenue acceleration.

“This strong engagement is driven by quality of the feed, video, messaging and acceleration of mobile usage, with mobile sessions up more than 55% year-over-year,” said Satya Nadella last month. “We will continue to invest to make LinkedIn the essential platform to connect the world’s professionals and help them achieve more with experiences powered by LinkedIn and Microsoft graphs.”

“We have united the world’s leading professional cloud with the world’s leading professional network and proved that we have an integration model that works, enabling LinkedIn to accelerate growth while retaining its member-first ethos,” continued Nadella.

 

LinkedIn the #2 Social Media Platform across Multiple Metrics

LinkedIn is now the number two social media platform by usage, advertising spend, ROI and analytics tools.  Facebook remains number one.  “While LinkedIn is often considered a hub for job hunters and corporate recruiters, the platform has also shifted to position itself as a marketing engine in recent years,” said Jerry Ascierto, executive editor of The Social Shake-Up Show. “The recent updates to its ad platform and UI seem to be encouraging brands to increase spend. As a result, more companies are experiencing better ROI from this network than others considered more popular and ‘fun,’ such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

Source: Social Shake-Up.
Source: Social Shake-Up.

LinkedIn has benefited from a native video feature that was launched last year and was recently extended to company pages.

LinkedIn’s last official member count was 546 million global professional profiles.

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson said that the LinkedIn acquisition has been “wildly successful” and that Microsoft would be “all in” on a similar deal.  Of particular interest are firms that would help connect users to the Microsoft cloud.

Thomson was critical of firms that share or sell user data.  “Many of them make money off ads and they have used that as kind of a leverage point,” Thomson told Bloomberg.  “At Microsoft, we don’t believe in that.”

While Facebook has taken a series of hits on its sharing of member data, LinkedIn has long protected member data (for example, Sales Navigator does not permit the uploading of member information to CRMs but makes it available for display).  What’s more, Microsoft has built GDPR compliance into its product line and set it as a global standard.

LinkedIn celebrated its 15th anniversary last month.  “15 years ago, we launched LinkedIn in Reid Hoffman’s living room with the tagline ‘relationships matter’,”  said VP of Product Strategy Allen Blue.  “I’m proud to say that this mantra still rings true today in both the halls of LinkedIn and on the platform. While the world of work has evolved immensely — be it the tools and products we use, the ways we communicate, and even the jobs themselves — our need to connect with one another to be productive in our careers remains at the core of all we do.”

Salesforce: There is a “crisis of trust” concerning data privacy and cybersecurity

A few weeks ago, I wrote about enterprise software vendors calling for an American version of GDPR with Microsoft announcing that it was building GDPR into its global product line as its standard privacy protocol.

On the Salesforce earnings call last week, CEO Marc Benioff observed that the software industry has been going through a “crisis of trust for the past six months” related to privacy and data ownership:

“From the European perspective the way they look at data is data belongs to you, it’s your data. Now for us at Salesforce, we understand that. We’ve had that position from the beginning. Our customers’ data belongs to them, it’s their data. I think in some cases, the companies that are start-ups and next generation technologies here in San Francisco, they think that data is theirs. I think the Europeans with GDPR have really flipped the coin, especially in advertising but in another areas saying hey, this data belongs to the consumer or to the customers, you guys have to pivot back to the consumer, you have to pivot back to the customer.”

Benioff once again called for a US privacy law similar to GDPR which provides “guardrails” around trust and safety. “This is going to help our industry,” said Benioff.  ”It’s going to provide the ability for the customers to interact with great next generation technologies in a safe way.”

Benioff also warned that when AI technologies are indistinguishable from humans, trust will also be an issue.

GDPR Perspectives from Microsoft, Salesforce, and SugarCRM

810px-Flag_of_EuropeIt is less than 36 hours until GDPR becomes the law of the land in the EU Zone.  As the regulation has extra-territorial privacy requirements, non EU companies, even those without a physical presence in the EU, are subject to its requirements with respect to communications with EU citizens and management of their data.

The US has a much weaker set of laws and there is concern that US firms are laggards with respect to compliance.  However, a number of US technology firms have called for adoption of a US GDPR.

On Monday, Microsoft once again reiterated its belief that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and announced that GDPR will be their privacy standard globally.

“As people live more of their lives online and depend more on technology to operate their businesses, engage with friends and family, pursue opportunities, and manage their health and finances, the protection of this right is becoming more important than ever.”

  • Julie Brill, Microsoft Corporate VP & Deputy General Counsel

Companies, therefore, have a “huge responsibility” to protect and safeguard personal data.

Since GDPR was enacted in 2016, Microsoft has dedicated 1,600 engineers towards compliance.  “GDPR compliance is deeply ingrained in the culture at Microsoft and embedded in the processes and practices that are at the heart of how we build and deliver products and services,” said Brill.

She noted, however, that GDPR is a “complex regulatory framework” subject to “ongoing interpretation” by regulators and feedback from customers.  As such, the firm will “determine the steps that we all will need to take to maintain compliance.”

As a provider of corporate infrastructure, Microsoft views GDPR as an opportunity to differentiate itself and assist its customers with compliance on the Microsoft Cloud.  “One of our most important goals is to help businesses become trusted stewards of their customers’ data,” said Brill.  “This is why we offer a robust set of tools and services for GDPR compliance that are backed up by contractual commitments.  For most companies, it will simply be more efficient and less expensive to host their data in the Microsoft Cloud where we can help them protect their customers’ data and maintain GDPR compliance.”

Additional details about Microsoft GDPR compliance can be found in their Trust Center.

Salesforce and SugarCRM have also taken a strong position on GDPR calling for similar legislation in the US.  “What we need is a national privacy law, and that will really not just protect the tech industry; it’s going to protect all the consumers,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

This is not a new position for Salesforce.  Back in 2014, Benioff said, “I’m all in favor of consumers having more power and more control over their data. As a consumer, you should have all of the rights. It’s like a cloud Bill of Rights. As a consumer or as an enterprise, you should have the right to be forgotten or to add or take away your data.”

As part of its compliance, the firm named their Senior VP of Global Privacy and Product Legal Lindsey Finch as their new Data Protection Officer.  Finch has been with Salesforce for a decade with previous stints at GE (Privacy Counsel), the Federal Trade Commission, and Homeland Security.

“The official DPO designation is a natural outgrowth of our existing programme. My team and I will continue to partner across the company to foster a culture of privacy – designing, implementing, and ensuring compliance with our global privacy programme, including ensuring that privacy is considered throughout the product development lifecycle,” said Finch. “The top theme I’m hearing is that our customers are using the GDPR as an opportunity to focus on their privacy practices and putting their customers—oftentimes end-consumers—at the center of their businesses. The GDPR is a complex law, but putting the individuals to whom the personal data relates at the forefront, and focusing on their expectations and preferences, is a great starting point for compliance with the GDPR and other privacy laws.”

Finch described Salesforce’s approach to GDPR compliance:

“We started by kicking off a thorough review to ensure compliance across the company. The GDPR is an incredibly rich document—99 articles and 173 recitals across 88 pages! Our Privacy team broke this down into key principles and worked closely with our Technology & Products organization to review our compliance. We found that we were already in a really great place,

Since then, a lot of the work we’ve been doing has been to document how our customers can use our services to comply with some of the key GDPR principles, which we’ve published on our GDPR website. There is no finish line when it comes to GDPR compliance. While Salesforce currently offers the tools for our customers to comply with the GDPR, we will continue to release new innovations that help our customers achieve compliance success.”

Salesforce CMO Simon Mulcahy echoed Benioff and Finch at the Salesforce World Tour event in London last week.  Mulcahy stated that many companies simply view GDPR as a compliance issue and nuisance, not an opportunity to align company interests with customer desires.  “It is a compliance issue, but it’s also a phenomenal opportunity to give your customers what they want. What they want is to know that when they give you their data, you’re looking after it appropriately.”

“Benioff is right that we will need some regulation and I can’t see how we can set two standards–EU and US–so we’ll likely need to adopt what the EU has done or risk chaos.  This also fits well into the narrative of the information utility. GDPR is another driver sending us toward utility formation for the information industry.”

  • Dennis Pombriant, Principal Beagle Research

Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM noted that firms have been lax in their privacy and cyber security processes saying that self-regulation has proven to be insufficient with “too many incidents.”

“Data privacy issues are not going to go away. People are thinking a lot here now about GDPR, because Facebook, Twitter, and all of these issues keep coming. And Experian in the US, about managing personal information related to credit card data… there’s just a constant barrage of issues around data privacy and personal information,” continued Augustin.  “Everyone has to address it, whether it’s in the context of GDPR or the next thing that’s going to come along. There is definitely a heightened awareness and interest.”

SugarCRM has built a data privacy manager into its CRM as a “command center” for the data privacy officer.

In my discussions with clients. they all admit to the regulations being a muddle that initially adds risk to their business models.  The penalties are draconian, but the compliance requirements are ambiguous, particularly for B2B firms.  As such, we are likely to be hearing about issues concerning GDPR compliance requirements over the next few years.

Satya Nadella and “Trust in Technology”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella digressed from standard earnings call topics two weeks ago to discuss the importance of ethics, privacy, and cybersecurity.  While he did not provide a specific reason for the digression, the Facebook hearings and impending GDPR implementation were likely motivators.

Nadella noted that the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are “tremendous opportunities” for Microsoft customers, but that it is critical that both Microsoft and its customers “ensure trust in technology” across three dimensions: privacy, cybersecurity, and ethics. Nadella argued that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and that the firm has implemented an “end-to-end privacy architecture” which is GDPR compliant.

“For customers, we will provide robust tools backed by our contractual commitments to help them comply with GDPR,” said Nadella. “In fact, for most customers it will be more effective and less costly to host their data in Microsoft’s GDPR-compliant cloud than to develop and maintain GDPR compliance tools themselves.”

With respect to cybersecurity, the company spearheaded a coalition of 34 global tech and security companies for the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, “an important first step by the industry to help create a safer and more secure online environment for everyone.”

Nadella also announced the establishment of an AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research Committee at Microsoft “to ensure we always advance AI in an ethical and responsible way to benefit our customers and the broader society. This includes new investments in technology to detect and address bias in AI systems. Microsoft stands for trust, and this will continue to be a differentiating focus for us moving forward.”

Up until recently, information technology and social media have been viewed as social goods with few drawbacks, but now that we are all tied into the social communications fabric, we are beginning to worry about the dark side of such connectivity whether it be job losses through automation, the stripping away of privacy, the vulnerability of our networks to hacks, or the undermining of objective truth and democratic systems.

One step towards addressing these problems is the GDPR Chief Privacy Officer requirement with its focus on privacy and cybersecurity.  At most companies, this role is likely to be one of compliance, not ethics or broader social questions.  At a few, however, this role may grow beyond mere compliance and begin to address the broader social and economic issues posed by information technology.

 

LinkedIn: Now Part of Microsoft

On December 9th, Microsoft announced closure of its $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition following EU approval.  The full approval process took just about six months.  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is “even more enthusiastic” about the transaction than he was in June.

Nadella listed the following “immediate term” integration scenarios:

  • LinkedIn identity and network in Microsoft Outlook and the Office suite
  • LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action center
  • Enabling members drafting résumés in Word to update their profiles, and discover and apply to jobs on LinkedIn
  • Extending the reach of Sponsored Content across Microsoft properties
  • Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
  • LinkedIn Learning available across the Office 365 and Windows ecosystem
  • Developing a business news desk across our content ecosystem and MSN.com
  • Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365

The emphasis on expanded opportunities for individuals to learn, compete, network, collaborate, and find jobs was a key justification of the merger.  “While technology tools are not a panacea for current economic challenges, we believe they can make an important contribution,” said Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.  “Microsoft and LinkedIn together have a bigger opportunity to help people online to develop and earn credentials for new skills, identify and pursue new jobs, and become more creative and productive as they work with their colleagues. Working together we can do more to serve not only those with college degrees, but the many people pursuing new experiences, skills and credentials related to vocational training and so-called middle skills. Our ambition is to do our part to create more opportunity for people who haven’t shared in recent economic growth.”

The LinkedIn and Microsoft Graphs complement each other and will help build LinkedIn's vision of an Economic Graph.
The LinkedIn and Microsoft Graphs complement each other and will help build LinkedIn’s vision of an Economic Graph.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner views the transaction as an opportunity to expand LinkedIn’s Economic Graph “and ultimately help create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”  LinkedIn will operate as an independent division with “the same mission and vision, the same culture and values, the same brand, and the same leadership team.”

Weiner reiterated LinkedIn’s commitment to its members, their privacy, and information security.  The firm “remains focused on growing LinkedIn and creating value for our members and customers with a focus on integrating LinkedIn products with Microsoft.

The EU placed a few requirements on the deal, but did not view the transaction as anti-competitive, a position held by Salesforce.com.  The EU evaluated the impact on professional social networks, CRM solutions, and API access.  As an accommodation, Microsoft committed to a five year period in which it will

  • Ensure that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Windows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to preinstall it.
  • Allow competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft’s Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programming interfaces.
  • Grant competing professional social network service providers access to “Microsoft Graph”, a gateway for software developers. It is used to build applications and services that can, subject to user consent, access data stored in the Microsoft cloud, such as contact information, calendar information, emails, etc. Software developers can potentially use this data to drive subscribers and usage to their professional social networks.

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities. Today’s decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks.”

Data on employees by function from beta company profile page.
Data on LinkedIn employees by function from beta company profile page.

LinkedIn has 467 million global members and supports two dozen languages.  The firm continues to add members at the rate of two per second.  Last quarter, LinkedIn earned $960 million across three divisions: Talent Solutions ($623 million), Marketing Solutions ($175 million), and Premium Subscriptions ($162 million).

Conversation Starters

LinkedIn rolled out a new Conversation Starter feature to promote system messaging via a lightbulb icon.  The feature analyzes the target individual’s profile to provide a series of conversational options.  After selecting a potential opener, the user can modify the text to their voice.  Starters include recent profile updates, work anniversaries, recent posts, mutual connections, and shared backgrounds (e.g. alma mater, former employers, groups).

li-conversation-starter“We know that reaching out to reconnect, ask for advice or network for potential job opportunities can be intimidating, so we’ve added personalized conversation starters in LinkedIn messaging to give members authentic ways to break the ice,” the company said in a blog post.

Unfortunately, the Conversation Starters on their marketing video are mostly focused on connections.  This could result in a spate of similar sounding openers that could quickly become SPAM.  This focus could be simply a marketing oversight, but variations on “Hi Suzi, I noticed you have X connections at Google.  Have you heard…” seem like a weak set of Conversation Starters.  While better than cold messages such as “Hi Suzi, I’m reaching out to you because my company…”, their sample seems uninspired.  Furthermore, the Conversation Starters do not contain any stored messages from the sales rep to expedite the message creation process.

Meeting Scheduling

LinkedIn will soon be rolling out a bot to assist with multi-party meeting scheduling.

Decommissioning Professional Edition Features

According to Intero Advisory, a LinkedIn coaching service, LinkedIn is looking to migrate sales clients from their Professional edition to Sales Navigator.  As part of this effort, LinkedIn is dropping two features from the Pro service: 1) Premium Search Filters and 2) Notes and Tags for connections.  LinkedIn said these features will be available through the end of March.  Users have until then to download any Notes and Tags.  To help accommodate users, LinkedIn is offering a free three-month trial of Sales Navigator which includes the transfer of Notes and Tags.

LinkedIn Salary: Expanding the Economic Graph

LinkedIn continues the build out of its Economic Graph with the launch of LinkedIn Salary.  The new tool provides salary data alongside other elements of the Economic Graph including jobs, employees, organizations, skills, and educational institutions.

“This includes salary, bonus, and equity data for specific job titles, and the different factors that impact pay such as years of experience, industry, company size, location, and education level — all of which becomes critical knowledge as you navigate your career,” LinkedIn wrote. “Also, rest assured that when you enter your salary, it’s immediately encrypted and remains private.”

LinkedIn Salary
LinkedIn Salary

The service provides a set of salary analytics related to job, experience, industry, and location.  The user begins by specifying the position and location.  They can then quickly filter by industry and experience.  Both median salary and median compensation are immediately displayed along with a compensation histogram.  Other details include annual bonus, commission, restricted stock units, and stock options.  Other salary analytics include base salaries by company size, industry, education level, field of study, and top locations.

Another valuable tool is compensation data by position for key employers in a metro area.

LinkedIn Salary data at top companies by title and location.
LinkedIn Salary data at top companies by title and location.

The service is currently available in the US, UK, and Canada with plans to expand globally in 2017.  To obtain full salary details, users must provide their salary details or have a LinkedIn Premium subscription.

Other vendors providing similar data include Glassdoor and Salary.com.

Other recent LinkedIn developments in the news:

  • LinkedIn anticipates that the Microsoft acquisition will close by the end of 2016.  They are awaiting approval from the European authorities and then should be ready to complete the $26.2 billion transaction.
  • LinkedIn was blocked in Russia last week after they failed to comply with Russian rules concerning the housing of data related to Russian citizens.  The service has six million Russian members.  The block goes back to a 2014 law which was enacted after social media-fueled protests against the Putin regime.

Note: The link to the Glassdoor salary site was added on December 1st.