Source: LinkedIn. 

Shares of LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) entered the week down roughly 8% year-to-date. Will the losses continue after the company reports third-quarter results Thursday, or are better days ahead? A lot depends on how well the business has performed. Here's a closer look at what LinkedIn has achieved over the trailing 12 months: 

LNKDQ2 2015Q1 2015Q4 2014Q3 2014
Revenue $711.7 million $637.7 million $643.4 million $568.3 million
Earnings From Continuing Operations ($67.5 million) ($42.4 million) $3.1 million ($4.2 million)
Adjusted EPS ($0.32) ($0.16) $0.03 $0.04
Cash From Operations $225.6 million $165.1 million $130.4 million $181.2 million

Source: S&P Capital IQ.  

As you can see, LinkedIn has reported respectable sequential gains in revenue and cash from operations over the past year. The figures are reminiscent of those from Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), which reported $569 million in third-quarter revenue (up 58% year-over-year) and a massive reversal in cash from operations -- from $85.9 million used in last year's third quarter to $101.7 million generated in the current Q3. LinkedIn has enjoyed similar cash flow gains recently. Here's a closer look at how the key figures measure up year-over-year:

LNKD Growth RatesQ2 2015Q1 2015Q4 2014Q3 2014
Revenue 33.3% 34.8% 43.9% 44.6%
Earnings From Continuing Operations Not material Not material (18.2%) Not material
Adjusted EPS Not material Not material (41.1%) Not material
Cash From Operations 75.7% 28.2% 58.2% 43.8%

Source: S&P Capital IQ

Revenue and cash flow look strong, while profits -- at least on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) -- remain elusive. Looking at the overall business, I'm watching for improvements in each of these three areas:

1. Marketing solutions. Like Twitter with its TV-related promotions, LinkedIn has made much of newer services aimed at advertisers. On the second-quarter earnings call, Chief Financial Officer Steve Sordello said that native advertising and sponsored updates were growing "in excess of 100%" year-over-year. Publishers fuel that growth, adding what the company said were "130,000 new long-form posts" weekly in the second quarter. As a business unit, marketing solutions grew revenue 31.5% year-over-year to just over $140 million in revenue -- slightly lagging the company's overall growth rate in Q2. Look for LinkedIn to reverse that equation in the third quarter. 

2. lynda.com as a contributor to growth. LinkedIn reports revenue from courses sold through lynda.com in its talent solutions group as "learning & development." In Q2, that amounted to $17.6 million in revenue. For the full year, LinkedIn in Q2 said it expects lynda.com to contribute $90 million to revenue, versus an earlier forecast of $40 million, due mostly to an earlier-than-expected close of the acquisition.

3. International markets. LinkedIn could do better in foreign markets. Even though 40% of total revenue is now produced overseas, at just 23.6%, growth in international business badly lagged overall Q2 revenue growth. For comparison's sake, Twitter reported a 65% increase in international revenue. About one-third of the microblogger's business is now done overseas. 

LinkedIn has forecast third-quarter revenue in the $745 million to $750 million range, which would result in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in the $146 million to $148 million range, and adjusted earnings of about $0.43 per share. Results will be released on Thursday after the market closes. 

Tim Beyers is feeling a little more social today. He's also a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission but didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool.

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