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LinkedIn Launches Premium Service

Networking firm LinkedIn will announce the release of LinkedIn for Groups on Tuesday, its third premium service since its launch in May of 2003.

LinkedIn Jobs, launched in March as a social networking Web site, is hoping to capitalize on several premium services that, in addition to its relationship powered job board, are expected to bring the company to profitability by early 2006.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said the latest services will be aimed at power users like recruiters, analysts and researchers with several price and feature options available. 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 previously added a referral-powered directory of business service providers.

"It is one way for a way for associations to remain relevant to their members," said Konstantin Guericke, LinkedIn's co-founder and vice president of marketing.

The company is also rolling out LinkedIn in for Groups, which allows trade shows, alumni groups and industry associations to establish private online directories within LinkedIn, while tapping all of the individual user benefits of the overall network.

"Our users love the ability to leverage their LinkedIn profile for directories of organizations to which they belong and to maintain complete control over their professional profile and how they can be contacted," LinkedIn's CEO Reid Hoffman said. "Adoption of LinkedIn for Groups has been a key contributor to our rapidly accelerating user growth - it took us 15 months to reach one million users, six months to reach two million and just four more months to reach three million users. "

Guericke said there are 800 groups already signed up for subscriptions, which will now be charged annually.

LinkedIn, has more than 3.2 million professionals have joined the LinkedIn network, highly popular social networks, most able to create a viable business around services for career professionals and has an online membership directory for over 800 membership organizations or conference organizers, Guericke said.

The standard version of LinkedIn is free, but with the release of a series of paid premium services this year, the company expects to reach profitability in the first quarter of 2006. Pricing for premium versions of LinkedIn for Groups start at $5,000 for the first year.

A few of the organizations that have already signed up include The Kelsey Group, Delphi Group's Business Process excellence and Duke's Fuqua School of Business Industry conferences.

"Our attendees are almost entirely executives, so networking is a primary attraction of our conferences. LinkedIn for Groups helped attendees leverage the value of that networking beyond the actual conference dates and connect more efficiently," Greg Sterling, program director of The Kelsey Group, said in a statement.

While the basic version of LinkedIn for Groups is free, LinkedIn now offers additional premium versions that enable industry conferences, professional organizations and alumni associations to tap into LinkedIn's proven model of marketing its offering through word-of-mouth distribution by satisfied members, according to Guericke.

The new premium versions of LinkedIn for Groups allow organizations to leverage their existing membership base to gain exposure and new members by introducing potential members to their organization through the profiles of their existing members on LinkedIn, he said.

Each member's profile page is maintained by the member and often includes career history, educational credentials and professional endorsements. Members of organizations using LinkedIn for Groups can make themselves contactable by other members of the organization without ever revealing their email address or other contact information.

"I believe it even boosted registrations because of the group's visibility on the LinkedIn site," Sterling said.