RealTime IT News

LinkedIn Services B2B

Business networking firm LinkedIn has moved beyond its peer-to-business job search market, which created a network of 2.4 million users in just a few years, and has added a referral-powered directory of business service providers.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company launched LinkedIn Services, a network that will connect its growing cache of professionals and business owners with local service providers, such as lawyers, accountants and technology services, the company said.

LinkedIn Services organizes business services into eight categories: legal, financial, employment, creative, management consulting, technology, marketing, and architectural and construction services.

When members initiate a query, the search engine first returns recommendations from its users' first tier of connections. Recommendations thereafter are generated from contacts further down the list. The reviews can be posted only by registered members of LinkedIn, Guericke said.

"When you're looking for business service providers, you also look for recommendations," Konstantin Guericke, LinkedIn's co-founder and vice president of marketing, said. "You're not just looking for any recommendations, you're looking for recommendations from people you know and trust."

The move is part of a continued expansion of the firm's networking plans, which began with the launch of LinkedIn Jobs in May 2003. The idea then was to create a site where job seekers could capitalize on their past experiences and build relationships with others who may help advance their careers, Guericke said.

The company claims it has already facilitated 600,000 referrals to date, helping professionals link with job candidates, industry experts and business partners.

Guericke said LinkedIn Services will further enable users to find trusted service providers while helping the providers get more leads for new businesses.

"It is interesting how networks are different than databases," Guericke said. "Databases tend to become commodities, but within a network, every person has a unique network."

Unlike the yellow pages, recommendations of LinkedIn Services are not anonymous, Guericke said.

Guericke said that more than 150,000 service providers have already registered and over 94 percent of those are recommended by at least one of LinkedIn's registered users.

For now the listings are free, but that is likely to change in the next six months, probably to a business model resembling that of the yellow pages, Guericke said. As for LinkedIn Jobs, there is currently a $95 a month charge to list jobs on the site, but it is free for job seekers.

Guericke said the company would probably add two more services within the next six months, but were not likely to keep adding more offerings.

"At the end of the day my guess is we won't be spinning out five or six new services a year for the next five years," he said.

Instead, he added, the company would focus on the applications it had committed to.