After experiencing a notable pullback in the first half of 2014, LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) is roaring back with a vengeance. Even before the business-focused social media company's most recent earnings release, shares were already on the path to recovery. The latest batch of results certainly helped, too. Beyond the hard numbers, management also had some words of encouragement on the last conference call that are giving investors confidence again.
Mobile is crushing it
Much like Facebook, LinkedIn is doing an admirable job navigating the transition to mobile. The professional networker continues to build out its portfolio of mobile apps, each of which serves specific purposes.
Mobile also continues to drive a growing share of engagement, growing more than three times as fast as overall uniques. Mobile now accounts for 45% of total traffic to LinkedIn.
During the quarter, LinkedIn launched its Connected and Job Search apps. Connected offers an easier way to keep up with updates within a user's professional network. Job Search is fairly self-explanatory, and is helping drive mobile interaction with the site. Mobile accounted for 40% of job views during the second quarter.
It's just the beginning in China
Earlier this year, LinkedIn launched a simplified Chinese version of its site as an official entry into the nation. The company had already gathered 4 million users on the English version of the site, which catered to bilingual users. Less than six months after launching, China has already become a key market for member growth.
We also continue to grow the network through international expansion. 67% of LinkedIn members come from outside the United States. After launching our Simplified Chinese site in February, China has now become our fastest growing major market for new members over the past several months.
CEO Jeff Weiner added that LinkedIn's top priority in China was to build a "world class team," and the company is also now "seeing healthy trends there in terms of engagement." LinkedIn's ability to expand into China is an important differentiating factor compared to other non-local social networks, many of which are banned in the Asian power. It's encouraging that LinkedIn is taking full advantage of that difference.
Content is king
LinkedIn has been on a multiyear crusade to grow its content offerings. By dramatically expanding its professional publishing platform, the company can drive engagement and ad sales.
On knowledge, we continue to see LinkedIn members embrace the idea of creating and consuming long-form content through the publishing platform. Thus far, we've ramped the functionality to over 15 million members, on our way to opening up publishing to every member on LinkedIn. We're encouraged by the early trends, recently surpassing 30,000 weekly long-form posts. Since launching in February, traffic to publisher INfluencer posts is up more than 100%.
Rival networks Facebook and Twitter are still more popular for sharing content, but LinkedIn is leveraging its professional expertise and growing its presence.
The marketing business is growing
LinkedIn's ad business has always been secondary to the primary recruiting segment. In that sense, its growth is largely an incremental opportunity. Sponsored Updates are driving the upside here, and pricing is also on the rise.
In marketing solutions, Sponsored Updates drove revenue growth in Q2 as we continued the strategic shift toward content marketing. Just last week, we launched Direct Sponsored Content, enabling marketers to test and optimize targeted content campaigns not specifically limited to Company pages.
Sponsored Updates maintained strong momentum through the second quarter where it represented 28% of marketing solutions' revenue, up from 23% in Q1, 15% in Q4, and 7% in Q3 of last year. The product and sales teams remain focused on driving demand, contributing to a 20% increase in effective pricing during the quarter.
This segment is growing hand-in-hand with LinkedIn's push for content. As the site ramps up its long-form content, it builds engagement and is able to sell more sponsored content.
The new Sales Navigator is here
LinkedIn just launched a revamped version of Sales Navigator as a stand-alone product, and management is extremely bullish on the service's prospects in the coming years. Sales Navigator is a social selling tool for salespeople. Much like how Facebook's social ads perform better than random display ads, making social sales pitches is much more effective than cold calling.
Within subscriptions, today we are pleased to announce the launch of the all new Sales Navigator. This new staff product delivers a customized view into LinkedIn to better connect sales professionals with the right buyers by leveraging key insights and connections across the LinkedIn network. Our research shows that social selling transforms the sales process. Buyers are over 5 times more likely to engage with sales professionals when introduced through a common connection versus a cold call.
Weiner said he believes LinkedIn can "usher in" the "era of social selling," all while enjoying subscription revenue. CFO Steve Sordello said he expects Sales Navigator to begin generating meaningful revenue by next year as it ramps up.
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Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook and LinkedIn. Evan Niu, CFA has the following options: long January 2016 $150 calls on LinkedIn, short January 2016 $200 calls on LinkedIn, long January 2016 $125 puts on LinkedIn, short January 2016 $140 puts on LinkedIn, short January 2015 $60 puts on Facebook, and long January 2015 $35 puts on Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook and LinkedIn. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.