Are you using a LinkedIn professional profile as part of your digital branding effort? Many of us are. With 740 million members from 55 million registered companies in 200 countries, LinkedIn is the most widely used social media site for businesspeople . Most of these members do not pay for the service, opting to create free profiles and keep them updated so they show up in Google search results and other digital search tools.
But many customers opt to expand the utility of the LinkedIn site with fee-based enhancements to networking, messaging, and access to lead databases. Many of my clients ask if investing in these extra features is worth it for their business efforts.
My response is always the same: It depends.
LinkedIn offers several tiers with increasing levels of enhanced services, accompanied by an increasing monthly cost. The exact composition of each tier and the prices charged may vary country by country, and of course the prices change over time. The following chart was compiled by Top Dog Social Media and provides these details.
Generally, the free LinkedIn profile option allows you to create a profile, populate it with indexable content, including a head shot and blog posts hosted elsewhere, and create a “cloud” of first-level LinkedIn contacts through invitation. Those first-level contacts will be notified of changes in your profile (new blog posts, changes in work status, or other affiliations) and generally promote “staying in touch.” In addition, a limited number of “instant messages” can be passed to first-level contacts via the LinkedIn system, bypassing regular email channels.
As you can see from the chart, higher levels of LinkedIn investment allow for greater access to messaging and intelligence about who is accessing your profile. They also offer additional features (like LinkedIn Learning, which are canned courses for viewing on demand) and search access to second- and third-tier contacts of your first-tier contacts). This becomes useful (a quantifiable benefit) if you are seeking leads for specific services. The two highest LinkedIn tiers (most expensive) provide access to databases that go beyond the profiles created by LinkedIn members. Generally, recruiters and HR professionals typically find these tiers cost effective.
So, the answer to “should you upgrade your LinkedIn membership” depends on the nature of your business, and, in particular, your “pacing” and the nature of your lead generation process. If you typically engage in heavy direct prospecting year-round for new or expanded business, or if your business is heavily focused on recruiting, a significant investment in enhanced LinkedIn services might be a good decision. Alternatively, if your business is highly cyclical and heavily focused on referrals, you might be better advised to spend the time and money on keeping your free profile fully populated with your latest professional accomplishments. This will enable prospects to “check you out” when considering doing business, and will allow you to get the benefit of a larger digital footprint in search results.
The good news is that LinkedIn makes it easy to try out an advanced tier of service through a free trial program and cancel if the services are not meeting your needs.