Log on to your free basic LinkedIn account, and you’ll invariably be prompted to upgrade to a Premium account. But do you really need to fork over cash to LinkedIn for additional features?
“As far as I’m concerned, most people—and I’m thinking 80%-plus of people—don’t need a Premium account,” says social media trainer and expert Patrick O’Malley. But, for those who do, many make a mistake in choosing the level of account they need.
When to Move Beyond Basic
There are a few litmus tests to determine when you need to move beyond a basic account, says Viveka von Rosen, cofounder of social selling consultancy Vengreso and author of LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand. Von Rosen tells clients to use the free version until they max out the features available to them. Consider upgrading if you need:
- To see more than the last five people who have viewed your profile in the last 90 days or seeing who has viewed your profile even if you don’t share your information when you view someone else’s profile.
- More than three saved searches or advanced and expanded search results and features like filtering results by industry or job title.
- To use InMail to send messages to LinkedIn members who are not currently contacts.
But O’Malley says that even when you reach these thresholds, there are workarounds that can help you accomplish the same things for free. First, many people set their LinkedIn profiles to be public, which means they appear in search engine results. So, simply searching for a person, company, or job title will allow you to find many results on LinkedIn, even if you just have a basic account. You can also search for individuals’ email addresses or other contact information, although that may be tougher to find. As for the people who view your profile? O’Malley isn’t a fan.
“I think this is one of the most overrated things I’ve ever heard. Somebody viewed your profile, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. What you’re doing, as far as I’m concerned, LinkedIn is almost just making money off your ego,” he says. After all, sending a message to someone saying that you noticed that they viewed your profile can be off-putting to some people, he says.
When You Upgrade, Choose Wisely
If you do decide to upgrade, LinkedIn has several options—Premium Career, Premium Business, Sales Navigator Professional, and Recruiter Lite—at varying price points ranging from roughly $30 per month to $119 per month. But don’t make the mistake of simply choosing the lowest-priced Premium account and assuming you can upgrade further later, she says. You may find the option you choose isn’t relevant for your needs.
For example, based on recent changes to the platform, von Rosen says she believes most business owners or salespeople who need a Premium account would benefit most from opting for the Sales Navigator level. For approximately $20 more per month (less if you opt for the discounted rate by paying for an entire year) than the lower-priced Premium Business, Sales Navigator offers lead recommendations, job change notifications, the ability to build lead lists, and other features that are particularly useful to those in a selling or business development role, she says. Similarly, Premium Career has features particularly suited to those who are job-hunting, while Recruiter Lite is best suited to those who need to find the best talent on a regular basis.
Von Rosen says that many people choose the wrong level of membership, opting for a lower priced version than choosing the options that has the features they really need. LinkedIn gives you one opportunity to “test drive” a premium level for free, so it’s important to think carefully about the membership level that’s best for you before you opt for the free trial. Also, if you decide that you don’t need Premium, be sure to cancel before the end of the trial, or else you will be charged the monthly or annual fee, depending on which purchase option you chose.
If you’re thinking about upgrading to a Premium LinkedIn account, be sure you truly need one, and then opt for the right level for your needs.