LinkedIn: Never too young for a professional network

The professional social network wants to extend its tentacles to teenagers. Does that mean the rest of us can finally unsubscribe?

Like any good corporate head-hunter, LinkedIn has a reputation for never letting go of its quarry. The professional social network that Forbes dubbed “The Anti-Facebook” is notorious for its aggressive approach to “engaging” users. So much so that Comedy Central’s Daily Show host John Oliver recently tried to unsubscribe live on air, castigating the site by saying: “You seem to have monetised irritating people.”

For many of the members who have joined up and accept contacts on the site but aren’t really sure what its uses are, this may sound familiar. And with this week’s announcement that it’s lowering its age limit to 13 in the UK, LinkedIn’s desire for expansion seems increasingly impatient and, to some, perhaps even misplaced. What sort of precocious 13-year-olds want to try and hobnob with top-level recruiters? How can the website ever hope to dislodge Facebook and Twitter? Why, in short, are they even bothering?

From the site’s point of view, the lower age limit was never the real target – it was just a footnote to the launch of University Pages, a new section that offers profiles for educational institutes. Imagine a digital prospectus where potential students can not only see how universities specialise in various sectors, but also snoop on notable alumni and dream about all the completely meritocratic leg-ups they might get in the future. It’s the sort of careers service website that the Government could never dare launch, and one that perfectly piggy-backs the networking functionality of the site.

Watching the adverts for University Pages, it’s clear that LinkedIn isn’t trying to “compete” with Facebook. The video’s tone is eerily similar to government-funded PSAs trying to jolly young people into being responsible adults. LinkedIn, we’re assured is “not just for old people with heavy briefcases, it’s for you.”

The “you” in question here is not the teenager who wants to chat with friends or click through photos of last night to find out what they did, but the teenager who knows that they will have to a get a job, and that they need every advantage they can get. LinkedIn’s insight here is recognising that these two are often the same person. No-one wants their Facebook page doing double-time as a face for both friends and for work. LinkedIn is attempting to offer another option, a comfortable division of your professional life and private life.

Although it has less than a quarter of Facebook’s members (238 million to Facebook’s 1.11bn), user sign-up for LinkedIn is currently increasing 37 per cent year on year, a figure that is more than matched by investor confidence. After an initial public offering in 2011 at a share price of $45 (£29), LinkedIn has consistently outperformed the market’s expectations, and in the last year share prices have more than doubled – currently hovering at around $237 (£152).

Much of this success is credited to Jeff Weiner, previously an executive at Yahoo who became interim president of the site in 2008 and CEO in 2009. Before Weiner joined, growth for the site had been slow. After launching quietly in 2003 the site had attracted one million sign-ups by the next year but the services it offered with minimal –just a bio page, a contact list and the ability to add colleagues. Although the site had attracted 20 million users by 2008, this was a slow growth rate compared to its rivals. Between 2006 and 2008, Facebook managed to add more than 130 million users.

Under Weiner’s leadership LinkedIn has dramatically repositioned itself from a service to a platform. University Pages – and the lower age limit – are just a single example in a larger transformation common to successful social networks. Once these sites have scooped up their most valuable resource – a pile of active users with real identities – a logical way to expand their business is to offer these individuals more services.

Facebook’s tactic was to launch the imaginatively-titled Platform in 2007, offering software developers the chance to develop apps and services within the social network. In return, Facebook would benefit by absorbing the web traffic of potential competitors and strengthening their position as a hub for various activities online. Platform was only a mixed success but LinkedIn’s future looks brighter.

Alongside University Pages, the site has launched services such as LinkedIn Today, an RSS-like news aggregator where users sign up to topics relevant to their work and interests, and the Influencers programme, a place where “the smartest people driving the professional conversation” write original content for the site. The sign-up list for the latter shows the scope of LinkedIn’s ambition (Barack Obama, David Cameron, and Shinzo Abe are all on board) as well as the site’s reach (Bill Gates’ first post received more than 1 million views in under 48 hours).

Weiner’s changes though are still underwritten by a professional focus; in terms of revenue the site’s bread and butter is still labelled “Talent Solutions”. These services, which represented 38 per cent of revenue in Q1 2010 and have risen to 56 per cent in Q2 2013, offer recruiters a number of different tools but are especially good at “passive recruitment” – using the site’s massive database to find jobs for individuals who aren’t actively looking.

This is typical of the site’s formula for success: unlike Facebook it doesn’t need users to visit it all the time to generate revenue. And with the new lower age limit set to attract more users to the site, LinkedIn is the perfect embodiment of its service: the more people in your network, the more powerful you are.

The LinkedIn generation: How teenagers will use service

‘Let me in. I’ve got the mind to do business’

Danni Cotterill, 15, from Bournemouth

I recently heard that LinkedIn is lowering the age limit to 13, and I’ll definitely sign up. I think it’s great because it’s beneficial for my future career ideas, and it’ll give me a head start in finding jobs. I took part in Tenner, the enterprise competition run by Young Enterprise, and intend to carry on the company I set up with my friend Georgia. LinkedIn will help us get advice from people in business on our ideas.

Opening up LinkedIn gives younger teenagers the opportunity to network with people in business and get feedback. Thirteen year olds have grown up with technology and their minds are like a sponge – they can take in a lot of information and they are quite professionally minded.

Taking part in Tenner has given me an understanding of how to work in a team and work to a deadline. I’ve got the mind of a business person now.

‘I already run a website. This is ideal for me’

Niall Sanderson, 15, from Carlisle

LinkedIn is a great place where lots of people who work in the same industry can connect. I run TalkRadioUK, it’s a website that provides radio, publishing and news to the public, produced and presented by the youth. We’d like  to look for radio presenters who  do sites like this, both professional and amateur.

We’ve reached 200,000  through our network. We do a network news show where we go out on stations worldwide, so LinkedIn is another idea where  we can find other radio stations that perhaps, would like to  use our services.

It’s a good place where we can put ideas up, where other people can contribute to them and we  can see what other people’s ideas are, as well and find a mix where we can be in partnership with  other people and use other people’s ideas.

All of the volunteers who operate on the social side keep all our social pages up to date, working on Twitter and Facebook, so through that, LinkedIn would be part of their responsibilities.

‘I can use it to make early career choices’

Christian Demaude, 14, from Lincolnshire

When LinkedIn announced that they would be lowering the minimum user age from 18 to 13, I was really excited because it means people my age will have a chance to get some early insight into the kind of jobs we want to do later.

I think the more information we get, and the earlier we get it, the easier it’ll be to make important decisions when we get older. We’ll be able to compare jobs, and it’ll help us to decide which universities might be best for what we want to do. When I grow older, I’m stuck between wanting to be an actor, an author or a psychology professor. So, maybe LinkedIn could help me to learn more about these jobs, about how they work, what I’d need to study and so on.

I might even get advice from people who actually have these jobs. I’m looking forward to setting up an account.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?