This is Steve Patrizi’s first visit to India. The Vice President of Marketing Solutions at professional networking leader LinkedIn is here to promote the latest feature added by his organisation – company pages, which allows companies to have a presence on LinkedIn just like people do. At the IAMAI India Digital Summit, Patrizi spoke passionately about how LinkedIn could be of use to both individuals and companies in filtering the deluge of information created by the Internet, allowing people to make smarter and faster decisions.
“The thing you do at every point in your life is make decisions. What product to use, what technology to implement, which people to work with, these are all crucial decisions, and the best way to make these decisions is when someone you know and trust can make a recommendation to you,” he said. As he explained, technology had moved forward from portals where content managers selected what was displayed, and moved to search engines, which used complicated algorithms to display relevant results. Social sites like LinkedIn put the onus back on people, but what made it more relevant, Patrizi felt, was that one’s professional reputation was linked to a recommendation. “LinkedIn is transparent. If someone is on a recommending spree, I’ll trust his suggestions less. But if it’s someone I know and respect, then I’ll pay attention,” he said.
Company pages work on similar terms. There, a company has a page and people can recommend the page to others on their network. Or they can visit the page, click on a sub-section, for example, for products, and recommend a product. Or visit a career page to see what jobs are available with that company. LinkedIn Country Manager Hari V Krishnan explained that this was also all contextual – the products, jobs and other information shown could be customised for the viewer according to a number of factors, such as age, location, profession, level of employment, and a number of other variables.
Patrizi went on to say, “Customers bring you more customers. The key fact is that without doing anything sneaky, simply by giving companies a presence here, and then allowing the users to voice their opinions, we create the most trusted form of advertising – recommendations from people you know.”
Speaking about LinkedIn’s rapid growth in India, Krishnan said, “We’ve hit critical mass, and are continuing to grow very rapidly – India is the second largest, and second fastest growing market for LinkedIn. Culturally, we’re attuned to this system of recommendations, hiring people you know. We connect professionals and stay transparent, so every testimonial and recommendation you make is linked to you, and your reputation along the way.”
He further said, “Around 3.6 million people logged in last month, that’s half our user base, so there are a lot of active users. And this figure, as a percentage of the total users, is trending upwards, which we are very happy about.” At the same time, Patrizi was clear that LinkedIn didn’t want to try and boost page views. “The goal,” he maintained, “is to push successful transactions. People getting jobs, or recommending products, and then getting off the site is what we are about. There was a demand for company pages, that was the feedback, and that’s why we’ve implemented this.”
The new system might be of particular use to small and medium enterprises, companies which need to get online quickly, but lack the resources to set up such a network for themselves. While on the subject, Krishnan says, “Company pages are very important because it's a lot more potent that clicking a 'like' button. You are actively recommending the person or thing, backed up by your professional reputation," though he clarifies that social networks are no less important than professional networks as a means of personal expression.