When people want to read some interesting content, they head to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) or Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) for some updates and articles. Meanwhile, professional social network LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD.DL) is often forgotten about outside of people looking to update their resumes and find a new job.
Over the past year, LinkedIn has been working to change that. It purchased Pulse and Newsle to increase the amount of content on its website and redesigned its homepage to attract more viewers to that content. Most recently, the company purchased e-learning website Lynda.com, which is another form of content to attract viewers and keep them coming back to LinkedIn.
Now, LinkedIn is using its strength in business solutions to help add more content to its website. This week, it released a pilot version of Elevate, a paid service that helps businesses and their employees share articles and other media across social networks.
Not a straight content play
Elevate isn't a straight play at increasing the amount of content on LinkedIn. Instead, it's a paid app that requires a subscription. LinkedIn is used to making money off of subscriptions, with 80% of its total revenue last year coming from its Premium Subscription and Talent Solutions products.
As a paid service, it's competing with companies like HootSuite and Buffer, which offer similar tools for businesses looking to establish a wider presence on social media. The advantage LinkedIn has is that it knows a company's employees. Instead of sharing through a business's account, Elevate gets employees to share content on sites. The result should be a wider reach and a better audience response.
Many businesses with a presence on Facebook have complained about the declining organic reach of their posts on the social network. The decline has led many to invest more in Facebook ads to boost their posts while exploring newer medium options like video. Both of these solutions are great for Facebook, but Elevate (once it adds Facebook sharing) could help businesses reach a wider audience more organically by sharing content through employees.
Aside from the focus on using employees to share content, LinkedIn will provide tools to help businesses find and organize content to share by tapping its recommendation engines from Pulse and Newsle.
Additionally, LinkedIn will provide analytics tools so businesses can measure the impact of the content they share on things like job listings and Company Page views. In its early tests of Elevate, LinkedIn found that each piece of content shared by an employee resulted in six job views, three Company Page views, and one Company Page follower. That's exposure many businesses are willing to pay for.
Content marketing ... for LinkedIn
While businesses will certainly benefit from reaching a wider audience with their content through Elevate, LinkedIn stands to gain just the same. As mentioned, the company isn't exactly a destination for content compared to Twitter and Facebook.
While it boasts nearly 350 million users, those aren't monthly active users like Twitter's 288 million or Facebook's 1.39 billion. In the fourth quarter, only 93 million members visited the website or mobile app. However, it's worth noting that growth in visiting members accelerated over the last three quarters, as LinkedIn revamped its website and mobile app to focus more on content.
Twitter, comparatively, has struggled to keep many of its new users engaged on its platform despite tons of content on the platform. It's been working on curating its content with new features like curated timelines and "While You Were Away..." The company has struggled to keep and attract new users, adding just 4 million active users in the fourth quarter.
As LinkedIn grows its content, it will come to rely more heavily on its Newsle and Pulse acquisitions to surface the right content for its users. But if it can increase the number of people reading content on its website, it can start generating more meaningful revenue from its advertising business. Last year, the company generated just $455 million from advertising largely consisting of job listings. Comparatively, Twitter generated $1.2 billion with "fewer" users.