Do You Really Need LinkedIn Premium?

Untangling just what LinkedIn Premium can or can't do for your career takes a little doing. So we did it for you.

While many public companies in the Internet space have underperformed in 2012—Facebook, we're looking at you—LinkedIn is an exception. Just last week, the business networking firm reported $228M in revenue during the second quarter, an 89 percent increase compared to the same time period last year. Aside from pulling in advertising dollars, LinkedIn also relies heavily on its subscription model to reach its financial goals (these monthly fees made up 19 perfect of total revenue in Q2).

It can be difficult to untangle all the benefits you get when paying for these premium services, especially when most social media users are accustomed to free platform access. But when you dig deep into what LinkedIn has to offer, it's clear that these features are invaluable to many categories of business professionals, from job seekers to sales executives, from recruiters to entrepreneurs. If you're serious about relationships—purely in a professional manner—there is something for everyone at each membership level (although LinkedIn doesn't refer to this access as a membership, it's easier to explain from this perspective).

Figuring out which upgrade makes the most sense for you is perhaps the biggest challenge before you can reap important networking benefits.

Here's the simple way to look at the Premium offerings. There are four different categories of membership:

• (Business) business professionals
• (Talent) recruiters,
• (Job Seeker) job seekers
• (Sales) sales professionals

If you're not recruiting, looking for a job, or selling something, chances are that the Business category is a good fit (as an entrepreneur, I am currently a Business member). Within each membership category there are different upgrade levels. For example, within a Business Premium account you can pay for basic Business ($24.95/mth), Business Plus ($49.95/mth), or Executive ($99.95/mth) access.

Although the options are a little daunting across these four categories, what you're really getting when you pay is access to a bunch of features, including these three killer networking tools. The more you pay, the more access (results, stats, InMails) you get.

1. Access to more powerful search

If you have a free LinkedIn account, you can do some basic searching. With a paid account you can perform detailed queries. For example, you can perform a search that includes Fortune 1000 companies (or be even more specific, and simply include results for Fortune 50 companies). This reduces your search time immensely and allows you to search for people based on company size, seniority level, and more.

If you do upgrade, you'll see a gold LinkedIn logo beside these additional search features to indicate access. Depending on your membership level, you'll have fewer or more results.

2. More detailed profile information
If you don't pay for a Premium account, you will only see profile information from contacts at the 1st and 2nd degree contacts. A Premium account allows you to have access beyond your network. Let's look again at a Business account. When you upgrade to one of three levels of access, you will be able to see expanded profiles of everyone on LinkedIn. Moreover, and this is available across all membership levels, you will be able to see who's viewed your profile, assuming they haven't made their account anonymous (be warned, creepers!). This feature is available in your stats, including views by geography and industry), so day-by-day you can check out who's looking at your account and choose to connect with them or contact them (thanks to feature #3 below).

3. InMail
If you have a basic LinkedIn account, you know that you can't easily email someone beyond your network. With InMail, this all changes. With an Executive Business account, the most expensive Business account, you can send 25 InMails a month. The response is guaranteed, so if you don't get a reply in a week you get your credit back. This truly expands your access on LinkedIn so you can reach out to any of their 175 million members. Since LinkedIn has a solid reputation in the business world, an InMail is an appropriate way to expand your contacts (in other words, unlike Facebook, it's not intrusive—assuming you write your message without coming across as too spammy).

So, is it worth the upgrade? If you're looking to expand your business network and your digital Rolodex is key, yes. Moreover, if you're looking for a job, looking for talent, or looking for sales, there is no other platform on the web that can even compare to what LinkedIn has to offer. If the basic account is working just fine for you now and you don't anticipate needing any of the above features, enjoy the free ride and wait on that upgrade until you need it. Based on its recent financial results, LinkedIn will be around for the long haul.

Amber tweets as @ambermac

[Image: Flickr user Paula Bailey]

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9 Comments

  • Mick

    nice ad for LinkedIn in the form of a legitimate business article....apparently we know where they are spending their marketing dollars.

  • Leslie Dean Brown

    I would like to see a few additional benefits for premium / executive accounts such as more skills allowed, or more groups. It's not all about being able to send inmails. I actually rarely send them. Sometimes it's just nice for people to be able to find *you* more easily.

  • Fadi El-Eter

     When I used to work for others, I used LinkedIn to find jobs - the only reason I felt (back then) that I needed to pay for it is to contact recruiters through something called inMail - what I didn't know back then is that most recruiters on LinkedIn are just parasites.

  • REA ™

    LinkedIn is a great place to find new business and
    connect with others in your field, however recently I have been getting
    spammed by premium members and I personally think it is losing
    some of its value. Keep in mind these emails are coming from users whom I have not elected to connect with.

  • Randy Haynes

    As the founder of a start-up, Chartswap.com, the Inmail feature alone makes the premium account worth the price. I send cold introductory emails via Inmail several times per day and typically get at least a 50% acceptance rate. 

  • Ian West

    Interesting but still not convinced... Though my contacts in recruitment tell me up to 80% of their business comes from Li. But as I'm not looking for a job or recruiting, my free account I've had for some time works just great for me.

  • Repolift

    I just signed up for a trial of the premium account. I've taken some time to poke around finding useful contacts across the industry, and building my rolodex to hopefully create a group and invite as many individuals that would have solid input for my market.