LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) has become a standard for millions of people to maintain their professional identity. The company has redefined social networking for professionals to the extent that employment solution companies such as Monster Worldwide (NYSE: MWW ) are struggling to keep their user base intact. LinkedIn is struggling this year, however, and its shares are down 26% due to a weak fiscal 2014 outlook. The company is trying to beef up its platform features, and this might help it get better.
A feature-laden platform is driving results
LinkedIn's financial performance has been strong. It released robust results for the first quarter, with a 46% increase in revenue from the year-ago period. The company's fundamentals are also sturdy, with zero debt and $2.3 billion in cash. It can use this to its advantage by enhancing the experience it delivers to users, in addition to making acquisitions to expand its portfolio.
The company is trying to deliver more than just a digital resume for users. It is focusing on providing a rich portfolio of their experience, skills, and knowledge, enabling them to project themselves in a comprehensive manner. Recently, LinkedIn launched a new version of "Who's Viewed My Profile," enabling members to gain actionable intelligence on how they can build their professional brand.
After the success of its exclusive "Influencers" program, the company has scaled up its professional publishing platform. This will enable its members to better define their professional identity. The Influencer program is a tool that allows MNC's to reach a professional audience in an ideal context. LinkedIn has received a positive response from its users for this feature. It has also launched a new Recruiter app for Android and iOS.
Growing the user base
LinkedIn is improving its HR solutions further and aims to grow its business to the point where it powers half of all of its customers' hires. Although this is not an easy task, management has various strategies under its belt to achieve this. One such strategy is to increase the volume of job opportunities available on LinkedIn and improve the relevance of those opportunities for its members.
The acquisition of Bright in February is a step in the right direction and will increase the number of jobs available on LinkedIn. In addition, LinkedIn is also seeing growth in its job seeker subscription rate. According to management, "As members and engagement grow, we continue to improve our visibility into a multi-billion dollar long-term opportunity where LinkedIn powers the majority of customer hiring, across employers of all sizes."
LinkedIn's marketing and sales solutions are also improving. The company has surpassed 3,000 active customers running Sponsored Update campaigns, many of which are renewals from last year. In the first quarter, it launched a new "Lead Recommendations" feature into Sales Navigator, enabling sales professionals to identify the most relevant prospects in their networks.
The company has been working hard to expand its presence globally along with increasing its user base. Consequently, it has launched its beta site in simplified Chinese which will help the company increase its member base in the country.
Currently, LinkedIn has four million English-language members. After launching its new Chinese website, it now has access to another 140 million professionals and students in China. According to CEO Jeff Weiner, "While it is still very early, we are pleased with our progress in China and remain focused on developing the LinkedIn team, brand, and local Chinese product."
Better than the competition
An increasing user base and features such as Sponsored Updates will allow LinkedIn to bolster its advertising base. The company is seeing strong engagement levels, incremental spending, better retention, and bigger deals. The social nature of LinkedIn's platform has worked to its advantage as it has been able to take away share from traditional job portals such as Monster.
Monster has struggled in recent times. Its first-quarter revenue declined 6.5% year over year, while earnings dropped close to 59%. However, Monster is making moves to integrate a social element in its business to compete with LinkedIn. It recently acquired social recruiting technology companies TalentBin and Gozaik.
According to Monster, Gozaik will enable it to connect users and job opportunities by increasing the distribution of job advertisements across social channels. TalentBin will complement this service by giving resources to employers to search for active and passive candidates across social media platforms.
The bottom line
LinkedIn has a stronger user base compared to Monster. It has redefined the way employers connect with job seekers, and how professionals connect among themselves. LinkedIn has continued to innovate its platform with new additions, and this will work to its advantage in the long run. The company's stock might have taken a beating so far this year, but considering that its earnings are projected to grow at 34% for the next five years, it might be a smart buy on the drop.
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