About 3,000 paid $1,000 apiece to attend a three-day conference on how to employ LinkedIn’s recruiting applications, based upon their access to 248 million LinkedIn users who put their professional and personal information on the website.
“That’s brilliant,” I thought to myself. You charge your customers to come listen to all the things you can provide for them, they become more fully entrenched in your platform and subsequently become evangelists for the tool since they are so vested in using it. That’s $3 million gross income to create no-cost sales representation through 3,000 people, who pay annual fees for the tool. LinkedIn leadership is not stupid.
The conference was part promotion, part networking and part partying. The keynote speakers included a performance painter who exhorted the crowd to create their dreams and then fulfill them, as he has. Failing at a business (undisclosed) during the dot-com era, he reinvented himself as an artist who painted in front of large audiences to a background of inspiring music and evocative imagery on screen.
In a moment of honesty, he said to the thousands of people before him that they should go find their own inner artist, but that they shouldn’t necessarily follow his path … because he didn’t need the competition.
Then came a staged interview with Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. His executive of product development threw him softball queries designed to illuminate and elevate the CEO’s prowess as an iconic leader of the world’s largest professional networking website. Weiner waxed expansive as he described the vision of LinkedIn’s recruiting and career promotion tools.
“I always had a goal of improving the world” he began. “I started my career in education, reasoning that education was the key to improving the quality of life for the world’s underprivileged.
“At LinkedIn, we are focused on creating economic opportunity for our site members. I have a vision of becoming the global tool that will allow talented people to go wherever they are valued, so that the demand for people is met by skilled professionals who reside anywhere.
“We are creating the global freedom to improve everyone’s economic opportunity.”
The thousands of listeners collectively sighed with pleasure at the thought of being associated with such a grand view of the future.
I thought to myself, “That would be great, if all the countries of the world would drop their borders, eliminate their immigration restrictions, equalize their tax laws and require a single language.” Might be awhile.
I made a point of identifying the LinkedIn staff and management wherever they appeared. There were about 500 of the 4,000 LinkedIn employees present at this conference, called Talent Connect. That’s over 10 percent of their workforce, and they do this conference three times a year; one is in the United States, one in Asia and one in Europe.
Clearly, they see the career development and recruiting aspect of their offerings to be a key strategic driver of revenue growth into the future.
While they are closemouthed about what is coming, it doesn’t take much thought to realize they wish to move into selling analytics, the presentation of data that is compiled through the back end of their site. With almost 250 million LinkedIn users worldwide, analyzing the personal information of a quarter-billion people would offer unique and powerful information for anyone who can pony up the dough to buy it.
For example, LinkedIn should be able to tell you the average service tenure per employer, segregated by geography and job type. They should be able to tell you how many of what kind of professional exists within certain regions, industries and age groups. They could rank their members within job categories, not only by how many endorsements they received, but also the value of the endorsement, as measured by how many connections the endorser has.
After that, they could offer promotional packages for people who want to improve their ranking, their connections and their followers (LinkedIn has a strong business relationship with Twitter). Businesses are increasingly present on LinkedIn, too, just like on Facebook. This segment represents an opportunity as well, for promotion and ranking, for example.
At the conference, it was clear that employers want to participate in LinkedIn because of its utility in sourcing candidates, and in creating a demand for employment by increasing the company’s perceived value with prospective candidates.
Essentially, LinkedIn represents the 21st-century version of the venerable job fair, on a global scale. All the hopeful candidates line up on the site, with their electronic resume in hand — graphically superior but with inferior demographic information.
All the prospective employers put out their electronic tables and brochures. One key difference is that this job fair operator owns everybody’s information, and will be using that to make money — just as headhunters always have, when client and candidate information were contained in a Rolodex.
Point of information for younger readers: A Rolodex was a contact card file where business cards were arranged in a Ferris wheel with a knob to turn to your desired person, usually alphabetically sorted. Your search engine was comprised of a thumb and a damn good memory.
As I strolled the conference, I did not see one person from LinkedIn with graying hair. The staff and leadership think they’ve invented something new. They haven’t. They have automated ancient recruiting methods, and scaled it beyond belief.
Sewitch is an entrepreneur and business psychologist. He serves as the vice president of global organization development for WD-40 Company. Sewitch can be reached at email@example.com