LinkedIn’s focus on content has been in overdrive recently. A new in-depth study by faberNovel, titled LinkedIn, the Serious Network, looks at LinkedIn’s ten year trajectory from an online resume repository to a powerhouse hub for professional recruitment, lead generation, sales solutions, marketing tools and, yes, a full-fledged B2B content engine.
It is now testing ways to monetize its content marketing power with native ads called Sponsored Updates.
The company’s focus on content can be traced back to the inception of social news product, LinkedIn Today in 2011. Acquisitions of SlideShare in May 2012, mobile news reader, Pulse in April and social polling app, Maybe? in May have further played into the company’s content strategy. In October 2012, LinkedIn launched Influencers, a blogging platform for business leaders like Richard Branson, who, the study notes, now has 1.9 million subscribers.
As the faberNovel study points out, one of LinkedIn’s challenges has been to increase user engagement. It lags far behind Facebook and Twitter in average time spent per user each month. LinkedIn’s betting that its mix of exclusive and aggregated content will give users reason to increase the time they spend on the network. The new mobile apps and desktop news feed redesigns illustrate LinkedIn’s efforts to encourage the type of active user behavior Facebook enjoys.
To fuel engagement, faberNovel says LinkedIn’s goal is to become the first social platform for professional publishing.
Monetizing The Content Marketing Machine
LinkedIn is also looking for new advertising revenues. Sponsored Updates, a pilot program that launched in January, is LinkedIn’s latest foray into monetizing the content marketing engine it has built. Much like Facebook and Twitter’s programs for paid content amplification, LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates allow companies to promote content assets to a targeted user base, at scale.
The program remains in invitation-only mode, but expanded to the mobile apps in April. The native ad program is LinkedIn’s first foray into mobile advertising. The company says they are taking their time with mobile monetization and have been easing into it over the past few months.
Pilot companies include American Express, Lenovo, HubSpot and Xerox. While all aim to engage get their content seen by as many eyeballs as possible by promoting it, these companies are approaching Sponsored Updates with several different goals including gaining new followers, generating leads, building awareness of new positioning.
No date is set for the general release of Sponsored Updates. The program isn’t likely to have an imminent impact on the company’s ad revenues, which were $74.8 million in Q2 2013. The faberNovel study calls LinkedIn the Serious Network, and the company has made impressive moves on many fronts. Yet, if Sponsored Updates is going to make a serious impact on ad revenues, users will need to buy into LinkedIn as a content destination and marketers will need to take it seriously as a place to reach active, engaged professionals — at scale.