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It was a big year for LinkedIn.
Add that to the slew of new user-facing features on LinkedIn's website and apps, and you can see why things are looking pretty rosy for the company overall.
Here's a quick recap of the biggest changes this year:
- A complete overhaul of LinkedIn's website design.
- A new iPad app.
- Endorsements that let you recommend specific skills for your contacts.
- Original content from business leaders on LinkedIn Today.
- LinkedIn now has more than 187 million registered users and 109 million unique visitors per month.
We had a quick chat this recently with Deep Nishar, LinkedIn's senior vice president of product, to go over what 2012 was like for LinkedIn and what we can look forward to in 2013.
Below is an edited transcript of our Q&A session with Nishar:
Business Insider: Last we heard, LinkedIn saw huge growth in mobile traffic. Where are you at now?
Deep Nishar: At the end of last quarter about 25% of our weekly active users coming from mobile. That's doubled in about a year's time.
BI: Do you attribute that to the new apps for iPad, Windows Phone, etc.?
DN: Overall, there's obviously a shift toward mobile, so we shouldn't forget that. But toward the end of last year we launched our new iOS app and that has gotten a lot of traffic and accolades. In March of this year we launched our iPad app, which has also done very well. We also launched a Windows 7 app and are working on a BlackBerry 10 app.
When you combine the entire portfolio there's a lot happening there. In terms of growth, we're seeing good distribution between both the mobile web and apps. The apps are clearly taking a predominant share of it, but on things like the iPad, people clearly use the mobile web browsers too.
BI: As far as alternative platforms, are you looking into Windows 8 and Android tablets?
DN: We're looking at how things perform in the market before we get to it. Mobile is an ever-changing cycle. We want to make sure that as new operating systems come out, we continue to keep the apps very current on those operating systems. We are definitely very focused on existing apps that are out there and making sure they're very current when the operating systems get upgraded by the various manufacturers.
BI: What about Android tablets like the Nexus 7? Why isn't the Android version of LinkedIn optimized for the bigger screens?
DN: As a company we're always trying to focus on a big rallying cry for our products. This year is the year of simplification because in my opinion, I truly believe simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, so I'm trying to corral the team into fewer things done better as opposed to going after every flavor out there.
So we obviously keep a very close eye on all these products and how our members are taking them and using them. We'll continue building things as we deem fit or we start seeing a critical mass of our membership using these products.
BI: Since you simplified the LinkedIn homepage design, have you noticed any changes in user behavior?
DN: Quite a bit. Simplification really started last year when we launched the iOS app because the mission that I gave our mobile team was to design LinkedIn for the mobile device the way they would've liked LinkedIn for the desktop to be. The team came back with a much more streamlined version focusing on the key things that we believed our members wanted to do when they were on the go. And that got us not just greater views, but a lot of very good data in terms of how users were using our mobile app.
Then we put that into our redesign for the website and said, "Ok, what are the kinds of things people want to do on LinkedIn?" And historically, one of the complaints we always heard about LinkedIn is that people only come looking for jobs. But our data suggest that there are five times as many things being done by the same user that aren't job related.
Next, people do consume quite a bit of content on LinkedIn. We look at social actions [sharing, commenting, etc.] on the new homepage and they're at an all-time high. It doubled the first month we launched. Our site page views are up 40%. So all of those things obviously point to the success of the new design.
BI: Now that you have original content on LinkedIn from business leaders like Richard Branson, how are you going to take that concept further than just promoting prominent people in the industry?
DN: At some level, our content story has been evolving over a few years now. If you look at LinkedIn groups, that generates a lot of original content. LinkedIn Today was slightly different. What we said was because we have great technology, we can tell what our members are reading not just on LinkedIn, but off LinkedIn. We can use this technology to provide the most relevant content to our members.
Then we launched the influencer series where we invited 150 thought leaders from around the world who act as publishers. It's like creating a good content ecosystem. What we want to do is not be the publisher. We believe that a lot of great content happens all around the web and we want to integrate it together. At the same time we wanted to provide an outlet for these thought leaders and their professional content.
We want to broaden that, obviously. Thought leaders are only offered in English and it's going to start becoming available in various languages at the appropriate time. It also means we're going to bring in new thought leaders in those languages. What we don't want is for this to become just a free-for-all where everyone is posting something. It's not an open-ended blogging platform.
BI: What has user engagement been like since Twitter closed its API to LinkedIn?
DN: In terms of engagement and the liquidity of our stream, it's never been higher. So it hasn't affected anything in terms of quality content and what our members are engaging with. If your network was such that a lot of people were posting from Twitter, you're probably now seeing fewer things like, "Just had a great cup of coffee!" in your stream. We find that most of our members don't miss that from the LinkedIn stream.
BI: Endorsements are pretty new, but it seems like a lot of people using them. Do you think they'll eventually replace the typical written recommendation?
DN: Clearly. To write a recommendation you're indebted to writer's block. Something I've discussed quite a bit is, "How do you create a reputation ecosystem where it is lightweight, yet meaningful?" I don't think endorsements in its current form is the ultimate system, but I think it's a lot closer to what the ultimate system of reputation is going to look like where we use our technology and understanding of who you are based on your profile and the profile of your network plus your interactions on LinkedIn.
Eventually, we'll be able to determine "here are the five skills you probably have." Some of them may be stated explicitly in your profile, some may not be. Based on endorsements you receive from your network, we can start building a much richer profile of you.
BI: Can you give us a brief look at what to expect from LinkedIn next year?
DN: The big things for our team this year were to simplify and grow every day. People think of simplification as less functionality. I actually think of it as more targeted functionality for the member base.
You will see the simplification continuing throughout our site. This year we took a very concentrated approach for our homepage and our profile pages. You're going to start seeing that in some of our other properties. In terms of growth, we will continue launching in different geographies, in different languages, and on different channels so mobile will continue to experience the positive success it's had.
And on an every day basis, we'll continue to focus on being the preeminent content publishing ecosystem for professional content. We'll get more influencers on the program that are relevant to our membership.
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