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Ahead of its IPO, LinkedIn Shares Some Good, and Not So Good Data

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Ahead of its planned IPO, LinkedIn released some impressive and not-so-impressive data.

For starters, the site now boasts 100 million members across the globe. More than half are from outside the US. We can only hope that as job growth remains stunted and further complications throw the global economy into some kind of sustained state of Hell, more and more people will turn to LinkedIn for professional development opportunities.

More good news, and a little context:

LinkedIn had 71.5 million monthly visitors in February 2011, up 55% from the year-earlier period, according to comScore.

During the same period, Facebook saw growth of only 46%, while Twitter saw growth of 61%. MySpace, that other social networking site, saw a decrease of 43%.

On LinkedIn’s blog, chief executive Jeff Weiner reports that the professional networking site is “now growing at roughly one million new LinkedIn members every week, the equivalent of a professional joining the site at faster than one member per second."

And indeed, 100 million of anything is certainly a milestone. But amid all the positive news there was one statistic that should give anyone pause: rarely do LinkedIn members actually log in to the website.

In its regulatory filing, the company said that a “substantial majority” of its members don’t even visit the site on a monthly basis.

Compare this to, say, Facebook, where most members log in approximately five times every fifteen seconds. Granted, LinkedIn’s purpose is vastly different than Facebook’s, but the fact remains that when it comes to sustaining user engagement, LinkedIn has some serious work ahead.

Already, it’s taking some steps to address the problem. The company launched a new service called “LinkedIn Today” which aggregates news stories related to member’s interests and industries. There is also a dropdown box which allows users to personalize these stories, and share insights.

Which sounds great, but is anyone really going to use LinkedIn to get news let alone write anything potentially embarrassing to potential employers and colleagues? Let’s face it, LinkedIn stands out as one of the last places where people still feel a need to guard their intentions and watch their step. After all, this is their professional lives, the lone Internet property that demands a certain sense of professionalism and care.

It’s that exact ethos that makes LinkedIn such a challenging property when it comes to getting members to actually use the site.

Lord knows I’m afraid to log in lest I accidentally post some kind of status update or photo that single-handedly alienates me from my entire professional network.

Does membership matter? Sure. But engagement matters, too, and maybe even more so. Just look at MySpace.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.