Hey SMBs, LinkedIn Wants More of Your Business

By Michael Overell - Apr. 28, 2013
Improve Your Company Branding With Zippia
Hire Smart Event LinkedIn Intuit

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner opening the Hire Smart Event

LinkedIn held the first ‘Hire Smart’ event in partnership with Intuit, at Mountain View over the weekend. Targeted directly at small business, it was the first major attempt to reach out in person to a segment that makes up a small but growing proportion of revenue.

Many SMBs perceive LinkedIn as a tool for big corporates. The pricing on many LinkedIn products certainly supports this view. $10,000 for a single ‘recruiter’ seat is out of reach for most growing companies. But make no mistake: if you’re an SMB, LinkedIn is going after a greater share of your hiring budget.

How do they plan to do it? Through a combination of new products, and more proactive marketing of existing tools.

1. Direct job advertising

Job ads are still the biggest source of candidates for small business, and LinkedIn wants a piece of this pie. As an SMB, you can advertise your role on LinkedIn in a similar way to any other job board. One major hurdle: a single ad will set you back $395 – in San Francisco at least (pricing differs by the location of the role). I suspect many SMBs (in a large number of industries) will struggle to justify this expense, compared to free postings (Craigslist) or lower cost on other networks.

Cost: $395 per ad (discounts for bulk purchase).

2. Targeted advertising

With this feature, LinkedIn will display your ad directly to candidates fitting the profile, regardless of whether they are searching for a new role. Ads can be shown in the sidebar of a candidates LinkedIn page, or in direct emails sent out to jobseekers. If this feature was included in the overall pricing for a job ad, it would be a killer feature (and could justify the price point for SMBs). Unfortunately, it’s a paid ‘extra’ on top of a job ad.

Is it worth the extra cost? That will depend on your industry and role. The key here is getting your opportunity in front of ‘passive’ candidates, who aren’t actively seeking new roles. If recruiting for a critical role in your SMB, this could be exactly the feature you need.

Cost: ~$2 per click.

3. Company pages

Your company page on LinkedIn is tied to any ad you post. It’s effectively your second ‘careers’ page. And also a place to promote your products and services. A tip: invest time in building a hot profile. It’s (mostly) free, and any potential candidates from LinkedIn are likely to click here first, even before you website. For larger companies, LinkedIn does provide paid features to unlock premium display and analytics.

Cost: Free (some paid features).

LinkedIn search is pretty limited for free accounts. You’ll have few advanced search criteria, and will have a limited number of results for each search. But for paid / premium accounts you can uncover extra search fields and profile information.

For SMBs investing time in ‘passive sourcing’, this could be money well spent. Remember also that this search info isn’t just useful when hiring. LinkedIn is becoming a powerful platform for lead generation, sales and business development.

Cost: from ~$30 per month.

5. Contacts (new feature)

This is a killer feature I’ve been expecting (and hoping) from LinkedIn for years. It effectively adds CRM functionality direct into the platform. Organise your contacts with tags, and add notes and reminders. For most SMBs, this is all the ‘social CRM’ you need.

I can see this being a killer feature for SMBs. I’m already using it actively. But it’s pretty clear where it’s heading. Currently a free feature, I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t a paid/premium service within 12 months. Just keep that in the back of mind before investing too much time and data into it.

Cost: Free (for now).

LinkedIn is becoming a money-making machine. With multiple, healthy revenue streams, it’s the darling of Wall St compared to other tech IPOs in the past 12 months (notably Facebook and Groupon). The need to keep growing revenue will see new products, paid features, and attempts to sell into new segments.

While corporate clients have seemed to be the primary focus, events like Hire Smart are a clear signal LinkedIn is chasing growth at the lower end of town. Their objective is clearly to become an integral part of many different business processes (hiring, sales, business development). If they succeed, I believe most SMBs will see an increasing amount of spend going to the largest professional network.

Can SMBs get a return on this expense? The smart ones will, by using to carefully track metrics like source of hire; response rates for each ad; and overall cost per hire.

But many will throw hard cash against the wall, by jumping on products and features because ‘everyone else is’, without fully analysing or understanding the results. Many SMBs had a similar experience with Google Adwords over the years: a new platform seen as ‘critical’ in the digital economy; serious dollars invested online; vulnerability to new ‘experts’ with glossy ebooks.

And that’s where events like ‘Hire Smart’ from this weekend are critical. It’s encouraging to see LinkedIn making efforts to educate their market, and provide content and value outside their core product offering.

All sessions from the event were live streamed, and will be available online. We’ll link to it once live.

For our own part, check out these 10 no brainers for companies on LinkedIn.



Michael Overell

Related posts