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The Silent Rise of LinkedIn to 500M Members: What Marketers Need to Know for 2018 [SSM069]

What if I told you that LinkedIn, a social media platform that is now 14 years old, is the next big opportunity for marketers and brands?

While much of the focus over the last few years has been on perfecting our Facebook and Instagram marketing strategies, LinkedIn has been silently growing their user base to more than 500 million users.

The reason for this sudden growth?

LinkedIn is no longer known only for their résumé and job searching capabilities. It’s evolving into a thriving network of incredible content, influencers, and networking opportunities unmatched by other social media platforms.

In episode #69 of The Science of Social Media, we explore the many features that make LinkedIn such a powerful platform for brands and what marketers need to know going into 2018.

Let’s dive in!

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The Silent Rise of LinkedIn Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know for 2018

The silent rise of LinkedIn: What marketers need to know

The LinkedIn journey to 500M members

If you were to ask me to describe LinkedIn in 2015, I might have said something along the lines of, “a great professional network” or “the perfect place to find a job.” Now, as we close out 2017, it’s clear that LinkedIn is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of B2C and B2B marketing.

Microsoft must have seen something in the rising star as well – officially acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2 billion at the end of 2016 in one of the largest social media deals in history.

A quick look at LinkedIn’s journey to 500 million members:

  • 2003 (0 members): Launch
  • 2005 (1.6M members): Introduction of Jobs & Subscriptions
  • 2006 (4.2M members): Launch of public profiles for members
  • 2009 (33M members): Jeff Weiner joins LinkedIn as president
  • 2011 (140M members): LinkedIn goes public
  • 2013 (250M members): 10th anniversary of LinkedIn
  • 2015 (330M members): $1.5B acquisition of Launch of Pulse
  • 2016 (400M members): Microsoft acquires LinkedIn for $26.2B
  • 2017 (500M members): 100,000 new articles published weekly

What’s most astonishing is how fast LinkedIn has grown over the last six years. Between 2011 and 2017, LinkedIn’s user base grew from 140 million to 500 million – shattering the growth rate in previous periods.

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LinkedIn demographics

One of the more intriguing aspects of LinkedIn is the demographics of their users.

  • Twenty-nine percent of online adults use LinkedIn
  • Fifty-six percent of users are male and 44 percent are female
  • Fifty-one percent of users have a college degree
  • Thirteen percent of millennials (15 to 34-year-olds) use LinkedIn
  • Forty-four percent of users earn more than $75,000 a year
  • Forty-one percent of millionaires use LinkedIn
  • The average CEO has 930 connections
  • Statistical Analysis and Data Mining are the top skills on LinkedIn

CEO Jeff Weiner plans to “develop the world’s first economic graph” with the hopes of “digitally mapping out the global economy.” A goal not far from reach seeing how LinkedIn has an in-depth dataset of company, industry, and individual contact information for more than 500 million members.

In the long-term, this will be a game-changer for marketers and brands in the B2B space.

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Becoming a content-first platform

Written content

Did you know that LinkedIn Pulse started as the Pulse app – a class project at Stanford University in 2010? It wasn’t until 2015 that LinkedIn fully integrated Pulse into the platform and established themselves as a content-first social media network.

LinkedIn Pulse Acquisition

Before Pulse, LinkedIn didn’t offer users or influencers much in the form of organic content. When they announced that they’d be opening up their Pulse publishing platform to the public in February 2014, it opened the floodgates to a world of content.

Today, Pulse no longer operates as a separate application within LinkedIn. It’s seamlessly integrated into members’ feeds as articles to help enhance the content-first experience.

It’s working, too! More than 100,000 organic articles are published weekly on LinkedIn, many of which are written by top-level executives at brands around the world. Startup Founder, Gretta van Riel, explains just how powerful LinkedIn has been for her content:

Gretta van Riel LinkedIn Post

Video content

On August 22, 2017, LinkedIn launched what might be their biggest update since Pulse – native LinkedIn video.

Just a few months after launch, the evidence seems to be pointing towards videos performing extremely well on LinkedIn. Videos from the limited release are getting shared 20+ times more than any other content. Our team has been hearing the same sentiment from marketers everywhere.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the LinkedIn team at MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum this year. LinkedIn plans to roll out the native video feature to brands and businesses in the near future – an update that we’re all excited for!

Our teammate, Paul Thomson, has been experimenting with native LinkedIn video with great success.

Paul Thomson LinkedIn Video Example

Several of his videos are performing two to three times better on LinkedIn than they are on other social media platforms. A great sign for LinkedIn as a video publishing platform.

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Becoming a platform for influencers

An interesting trend that we’ve been keeping a close eye on is LinkedIn’s development of their invite-only Influencer Program.

As Daniel Roth, Editor in Chief at LinkedIn writes, “LinkedIn’s Influencers – an invite-only group of some of the top minds in business – have access to briefings, data, and experts that the rest of us can only dream about.”

Offering Influencers an exclusive platform to publish content was a brilliant move on the part of LinkedIn. One, because it offers Influencers a guaranteed way to get their content in front of hundreds of thousands of members. Two, because naturally, Influencers will bring their own audience to the LinkedIn platform by simply sharing their content with their followers. And three, it bolsters LinkedIn’s reputation as a thought-leader in multiple sectors.

LinkedIn Influencer Program

The Influencers so far include Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Sallie Krawcheck, James Altucher, and more.

In fact, 36 percent of LinkedIn members now read interesting articles they find in their feed, an increase of 20 percent since 2014. Activating influencers to write great content gives LinkedIn a unique advantage over other social media networks.

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Becoming a platform for personal branding & networking

Personal branding

Ultimately, LinkedIn’s biggest value proposition and its reason for growth lie in the ability for members to develop a strong personal brand.

  • Seventy-nine percent of professionals say that networking is valuable for career growth
  • Sixty-one percent of professionals say that regular online interactions with networks can lead to job opportunities

But what does this mean for B2C and B2B companies?

When brands have employees that feel empowered to build a brand and start side projects outside of their traditional work, it’s a win-win for both the individual and the brand.

Having creative hobbies has been shown to make people more helpful, collaborative, and creative in their job performance.


I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve made by simply reaching out to someone on LinkedIn and saying hello.

Many of the guests we’ve featured on The Science of Social Media were first introduced to us via a private LinkedIn message.

Whenever I have a question about social media or marketing, one of the first places I turn to is LinkedIn.

Check out this incredible infographic put together by the folks over at Number Sleuth showing just how important LinkedIn has become for personal brand and networking:

The New LinkedIn

Where we go from here

We predict that 2018 will be an amazing year for LinkedIn – both as a social media platform and a marketing channel for brands and businesses.

It’s a fast-growing network with exciting features being released regularly. These features will continue to open up lots of great opportunities for marketers to connect with highly-targeted audiences in new and engaging ways.

Keep an eye on the growth of written and video content as well as an increased focus on activating influencers by brands within their community.

It’s a great time to be on LinkedIn!

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More awesome resources from the show

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on Twitter, Buffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About the show

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing strategies from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 10,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

Image credit: UnsplashTechCrunch


EU Planning For Failure Of Brexit Talks, Says Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier

The EU’s chief negotiator has warned that the union is drawing up contingency plans in case of a “no deal” Brexit.

Michel Barnier said that the collapse of talks with the UK was a “possibility” though not his preferred option.

He told French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche: “It’s not my option, but it’s a possibility.

“Everyone needs to plan for it, member states and businesses alike. We too are preparing for it technically.

“A failure of the negotiations would have consequences on multiple domains.”

Negotiations to unravel more than 40 years of union have stalled, and Britain may miss a December deadline to move the talks to a discussion of future trade ties, which businesses say is vital for them to make investment decisions.

The key sticking point is the financial settlement the UK is prepared to offer as part of the divorce deal. Last week, Barnier said Britain had two weeks to spell out how far it would “honour its obligations” to break the deadlock.

But Brexit Secretary David Davis said on Sunday said Britain will not offer a figure for how much it believes it owes the EU.

Davis told Sky News the EU had agreed Britain would not need to offer “a number or a formula” for the financial deal when London accepted the bloc’s schedule for the talks – first a discussion about the divorce and second, about future trade ties.

“In every negotiation, each side tries to control the timetable. The real deadline on this is, of course, December,” Davis said, referring to the next EU summit when Britain hopes the bloc will launch the next phase of the talks.

″(British taxpayers) would not want me to just come along and just give away billions of pounds. So we’ve been very, very careful, and it’s taking time and we will take our time to get to the right answer.”

Prime Minister Theresa May says she cannot offer a figure for the financial settlement until her government knows what the future relationship will be. But she also does not want to inflame Brexit campaigners who have suggested Britain walk away.

Barnier also told Journal du Dimanche that Britain had to detail which financial commitments it would honour.

“Theresa May has committed to paying the contributions of 2019 and 2020, as well as other commitments, without specifying which ones,” Barnier said.

“The European taxpayer should not pay the price of a decision made … by the United Kingdom.”

The two sides must also reach agreement on the UK border with EU member Ireland, something that Irish officials say is still a long way off.