Kevin Eyres is the European Managing Director for professional networking site LinkedIn. I’ve been asking Kevin about the growth of LinkedIn, future developments on the site, and more…

How has the economy affected business?

LinkedIn is doing great. Worldwide, LinkedIn currently has more than 46m members. We get one new member every second; it’s a rate of growth which we are very excited about. Added to that, user figures show that engagement with the site actually increases over time. Our members continue to come back to LinkedIn as they get real value from sharing expertise and knowledge with other professionals.

How can people use LinkedIn in a tough economy to get a job?

LinkedIn is a valuable tool when searching for a job. Simply getting the word out there through your contacts and letting them know you are looking is a good start. LinkedIn also provides “status updates” which you can use to let your network know what you are working on.

They can also make use of the recommendations tool. A strong recommendation from your manager or one of your peers highlights your strengths and shows that you were a valued employee. The Company pages section on LinkedIn includes a section called ‘New Hires’ that lists people who have recently joined the company. At the very least you can examine their backgrounds to surmise what made them attractive to the new employer.

As a last tip, no matter how the economy or your career is doing, having a strong network is a good form of job security. Don’t wait until times are tough to nurture your network.

What tips do you have for companies and individuals to make the most from the site?

Don’t just see the site as a way to get a job and copy and paste your CV. In essence the site hooks you into a network and enables you to work smarter and ensure you maximise your connections and tap into their knowledge.

It is important to spend some time actually building your network, find new contacts and linking up with old ones. Think quality not quantity when adding contacts. LinkedIn is designed to be a usable networking tool, not somewhere where you have hundreds of contacts who you never interact with.

Ask and answer useful questions to build your credibility and showcase your expertise. The good ones give people a reason to look at your profile and add authority to your name. By answering questions in your field you can quickly become seen as an expert.

How many members does LinkedIn currently have? Is it still growing rapidly?

In Europe we just crossed the 11m members barrier, which cements our position as the preferred professional online network in Europe and the rest of the world. Globally, a new professional signs up for LinkedIn every second. We currently get a million new members every two weeks.

We are continually making improvements to the site as well as the features we offer members. In addition, we’re pursuing an aggressive growth strategy into new markets.

Do you have many non-English speaking users? Is this an area where you plan to expand?

LinkedIn is a global network. More than half of our members are currently based outside of the US and we’re seeing a continued trend for new markets to emerge. India for example is one key growth market for us at the moment.

Today we operate in 200 countries and across 170 industries. We’ve launched local language sites in France, Germany and Spain and there are more in the pipeline. With over 11m members in Europe, we’re the continent’s largest professional network.

How are you monetising the service? Do you have any plans for a paid version or different levels of subscription?

LinkedIn has standard free membership and the option for paid-for Premium membership, it’s what we like to call a freemium model. We have a revenue model split fairly evenly over three revenue streams: advertising, premium subscriptions, and corporate solutions. It’s this diversity of revenue streams that has helped insulate us from the recent challenges to the market.

Any new big products / developments coming to the site? Any future plans around mobile?

We’re continually making improvements to the site as well as the features we offer members. LinkedIn’s aim is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. To this end, we’ve already launched a number of applications to help our members get even more value. Mobile is one area we are currently developing and improving to enable
us to be accessible for people wherever they are throughout
their working day.

These include the Company Buzz application, which allows members to track what is said about a company on Twitter. The application is a filter for Twitter conversations based on search terms and can be customized by members, allowing them to see who is talking about a specific company and products.  The application shows Tweets, trends and top keywords.

Another example is the Amazon Reading List which is a fully integrated application that allows LinkedIn members to share information about the books they are reading with other LinkedIn members. Professionals can discover what they should be reading by following updates from their connections, people in their industry, or other LinkedIn members who share their professional interests.

Moving forward, we see a continued shift toward more open development of new applications and features which will deliver users with the tools they need to derive the most value from the site.

What are the key differences between social and professional networking sites?

Social networking sites are a great way of catching up with friends, socialising, and chatting about the weekend. Professional networking however emphasises staying in touch with professionals you have previously worked with or done business with. It is also a platform whereby you can cultivate new business leads and job opportunities through people you know and trust.

Where do you see the future of both online and offline networking?

There will always a place for offline networking as it plays a vital part in building strong, ongoing relationships. However, online networking enables you to connect with a wider group of contacts and to stay in touch more frequently.

Furthermore, sites such as LinkedIn aren’t just about maintaining connections, as networking online can also help professionals to develop in their careers, raise their personal brand profile and to work more effectively.

The funding round last year put a value of £1bn on the company – does this mean an IPO is inevitable in the next couple of years?

Our current focus is on building a sustainable company and continuing to deliver great value to our 46m members. At the moment we believe that we can do that best independently. We have a tremendous advantage because we are profitable and can fund our long-term growth strategy organically.