Someone you don’t know has a new job. A company you couldn’t care less about is celebrating its 30th anniversary. A creative head at a production house—not in the least your business—is seeking “blessings” for a new project. A video sponsored by a large bank teaches you how to make a great resumé. All par for the course during a typical visit to LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social network. With each passing day, LinkedIn is rapidly turning into a publishing platform, for both individuals and businesses, that can keep people engaged for increasingly longer.
This engagement is critical for the business. Software giant Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion, even linked CEO Satya Nadella’s bonus to LinkedIn’s user engagement. Why? Because even though not mentioned in its corporate documents, higher engagement on the platform equals higher monetisation.
Up until 2018, jobs and recruitment-related services, sold under the rubric of Talent Solutions, brought close to 65% of its revenues. Globally as well as in India. But post the Microsoft merger, its focus and resources have seemingly been directed to business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing tools, services and content generation. Its analytics tool, say professionals, works only on business pages. (Which may explain off-the-mark content in your personal feeds.)
India sits squarely at the centre of LinkedIn’s evolution. It’s the second largest and fastest growing user base but contributed a modest Rs 110 ($1.5) per user in the last financial year ending March 2018. In fact, it likely adds significantly to LinkedIn’s costs as the company continues to invest in infrastructure. Microsoft doesn’t report specific numbers, even country-wise, but LinkedIn significantly contributed to the increase in Microsoft’s cost of revenue, research and development, and general administrative expenses.
It was therefore not surprising that LinkedIn launched an ad campaign in India last year during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Only the second country after the US where this campaign, called #InItTogether, was run. The theme was careers and what that means to people. Apart from bunging India right next to the US, it underscored the need to engage with a wider audience. After all, the IPL is not what most associate LinkedIn with.
But why not. It’s a ‘profession’ in a country with an organised workforce of 75 million, with nearly 5 million joining the workforce every year. Additionally, India’s skills gap, abundant educational institutions and 65% of the population below 35 years of age, all favour a single platform that promises something for everyone. But while LinkedIn’s one-stop-shop approach seems like a solution, it may well be a problem.
There are well-entrenched businesses competing with each of LinkedIn’s services, and customers’ traditional reliance on them has curbed LinkedIn’s popularity.