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LinkedIn has been steadily adding media content to accompany those native ads. LinkedIn Today includes stories from 1.5 million publishers. The networking site has launched Influencer business blogs. It snapped up Silicon Valley's hottest mobile news-reading app, Pulse, in April with ambitions to mesh the businesses.
With 238 million members, LinkedIn is the second-largest social network behind Facebook, just ahead of Twitter, according to ComScore. "To me, this represents the next step in building on this business," says ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman of its ad move.
Ad revenue at LinkedIn is expected to more than double, from $376 million this year to $763 million in 2015, according to eMarketer.
When Mercedes saw LinkedIn's new in-news advertising opportunity and the chance to get in front of the high-net-worth audience, the company jumped, says Mark Aikman, social-media chief at Mercedes. "They may be the closest to the current Mercedes-Benz buyer, and they represent the best opportunity," he says.
Lenovo bit at the chance to get in front of such executives as chief technology officers. LinkedIn allowed precision targeting to that audience, says Lenovo's social-media chief, Roderick Strother. "What we really wanted to get in front of was the decision makers, executive decision makers with specific responsibility for making those decisions for buying IT products," he says. Strother says his campaign on LinkedIn performed four times better than display ads. And he's hardly the only fan.
But while it's important, advertising makes up just 24% of the company's revenue. The network's biggest moneymaker is the unit whose recruiting tool helps drive 56% of total revenue. Using LinkedIn Recruiter for finding talent, which runs nearly $9,000 a year per seat, means you're a somebody in the corporate headhunter world.
Recruiter's success helps explain why company executives don't overplay its identity as a media business. Instead, LinkedIn's media push is positioned as a complementary effort to attract people to its other services.
LinkedIn's core mission -- to connect the world's professionals -- hasn't diminished.
At the same time, its members' biggest request has been content, says Jonathan Lister, vice president in LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions advertising unit. And the site has obliged.
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