LinkedIn Preps Paid Services for Social Networking

After reaching the million-user mark, the company plans to introduce premium options, such as the ability to conduct reference checks on job candidates or search for business experts in the network.

LinkedIn Ltd., a social-networking service for business professionals, is getting ready to offer paid features that fine-tune the way users connect with each other.

The Mountain View, Calif., startup is still determining the specifics of its premium-offerings plans, but it is considering such features as the ability to conduct reference checks on job candidates and prospective business partners or to search for business experts in the network, a LinkedIn co-founder told this week.

Konstantin Guericke, the companys vice president of marketing, said the first premium option would come out in the next few months for recruiters. It likely would let them check a job candidates background with former colleagues and others who might not be on a candidates reference list but are in LinkedIns network.

"Our thinking has evolved from not just having one free version and one paid version but different editions of LinkedIn for different uses," Guericke said.

Like most social-networking services, LinkedIn is free to join as it seeks to grow its network. Earlier this week, it announced a milestone in reaching more than one million registered users.

LinkedIn lets users create a profile and invite their professional acquaintances in order to network for new business partners, business advice and job recruiting. Users can view their degrees of separation from other members and then seek business introductions through the members they know.

LinkedIns plan is to create packages of paid features for different types of users. Along with job recruiters, those could include job seekers, business experts and specific categories of business partners such as distribution partners, Guericke said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifWhat motivates online business networking? Click here to read more.

Social-networking services have gained wide attention in the past year, drawing venture-capital funding and well-known entrants such as Google Inc. with Orkut and America Online Inc. with ICQ Universe.

But their revenue models have been murky. Some, such as consumer-oriented Friendster Inc., have ventured into advertising on their sites, while others have launched paid services on top of their networks.

Other companies, such as Spoke Software Inc. and Visible Path Corp., have focused on selling enterprise software and services for building online networks to find new sales and marketing leads and contacts.

LinkedIn attributed part of its recent user growth to its introduction in May of LinkedIn for Groups. It allows alumni associations, industry conference organizers and professional organizations to create private groups within the LinkedIn network.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Spokes release of a workgroup application.

Also, about three weeks ago, LinkedIn revamped its Microsoft Outlook toolbar. The toolbar, which lets users add Outlook contacts and e-mail addresses to LinkedIn, now also analyzes e-mail messages to determine the strength of a users relationship with a contact, Guericke said.

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