LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner talks explosive growth

August 4, 2011: 5:26 PM ET

Shortly after the online professional networking service announced its earnings, CEO Jeff Weiner talked with Fortune in an exclusive interview about the future of the business.

FORTUNE -- LinkedIn (LNKD) posted a better-than-expected net income of four cents per share on revenues of $121 million Thursday afternoon. With 115.8 million members, a jump of 61% from a year earlier, the company is on a tear. Shortly after the online professional networking service announced its first quarterly earnings, CEO Jeff Weiner talked with Fortune in an exclusive interview about his plans for the future of the business.

Fortune: What were the highlights of the quarter? Why did you beat analysts' estimates?

Weiner: A few things—going into the quarter we started to see some traction some new products we launched and some optimization of existing products on the member side and the monetization side. As a result, we saw record highs in our key engagement metrics: cumulative members, unique users and page views.

On the monetization side, we saw a continuation in the acceleration of our topline. In Q1 we were up 110% year-over-year and in Q2 we were up 120% year-over-year.

Fortune: What are your most important priorities in the coming quarter?

Weiner: We're going to continue to invest in our products. Core product areas like the profile, search, the home page, and groups. You'll see us continue to invest in mobile. It's currently our fastest growing consumer service—we're up 400% year-over-year. And we're going to continue to invest in our open platform efforts. Most recently we launched "Apply with LinkedIn," which we think is going to continue the momentum on our hiring solutions front. It's our largest and fastest growing revenue stream.

Fortune: Which of your three revenue streams—hiring solutions, marketing solutions (ad sales), and premium subscriptions—will be most important to the business going forward?

Weiner: We're seeing strength across the board. While hiring solutions is showing continued momentum, we're growing significantly faster in [ad sales] than the overall industry and will continue to take share there…and we'll continue to invest in our ad sales team and generating more share of mind around our marketing solution products.

We also saw good momentum with premium subscriptions as a result of the overall lift [of membership] on the platform and some continued optimization of the existing product portfolio.

Fortune: So what are the most important of the new products you've launched?

Weiner: There were a few: Linkedin Today, our social news effort for professionals is off to a good start. A proof point is the fact that we now have over 100,00 publishers with "Share on LinkedIn" buttons on their sites. We're hearing from a number of business news publishers they are seeing record levels of referrals coming from LinkedIn.com.

We're also seeing accelerating growth for our groups offering. That's in part due to the fact we've opened up our groups product so that group moderators can attract larger audiences and people can share information and knowledge with more professionals than ever before. We continue to make inroads to our "people you may know" product, which enables people to connect more easily with their networks. When that happens, their connection density grows. The more people our members are connected to and the more access to high quality content they have, the more engaged they become.

Fortune: What's the potential for growing global economic insecurities to impact your business and how?

Weiner: As a platform that connects talent with opportunity at massive scale, we are in a position where we can help the people that most need it right now. Clearly given the macroeconomic conditions there's a lot of anxiety out there—people out of work and looking for work. This is where our vision to create economics opportunity for every professional comes in to play.

Fortune: Earlier in the year, you forecast a potential future loss as you invested in the business. I noticed revised q3 estimates suggest you intend to turn a profit. Has there been any change to your strategy?

Weiner: No. We're still focused on investing in the platform so we can realize the full potential of LinkedIn. That takes three forms. One is a continuation of investment in our products and creating more value for our members. The second is continuing to scale our technology platform on a global basis. And third is continuing to expand internationally. Well over half our membership now comes from overseas. We're going to continue to invest in localizing LinkedIn in multiple languages and building out our international footprint in terms of sales offices.

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Jessi Hempel
Jessi Hempel
Senior Writer, Fortune

Jessi Hempel is a New York-based technology writer for Fortune. She has written extensively about digital media, online advertising and social networking. Before joining Fortune in July 2007, Hempel worked at BusinessWeek and most recently served as their innovation department editor. Hempel is a graduate of Brown University and received a Masters in Journalism from The University of California at Berkeley.

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