LinkedIn Is Searching for Younger Members, Too

The business-oriented social network is on a hot streak financially but faces a lingering issue that a lot of association executives know a thing or two about: the challenge of reaching younger members.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Attracting younger members is challenging. It seems like you never have enough resources or the right pitch to pull it off.

If it makes you feel better, there’s an organization that’s having trouble attracting younger members, too, despite having massive resources and a track record of success: LinkedIn. With just 15 percent of its users under the age of 25, according to Quantcast, LinkedIn’s older user base is unique among social networks—something that could prove troublesome for the company’s long-term prospects.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t trying. More on their latest efforts below:

The “oldest” social network: LinkedIn’s focus on business users has proven successful in one sense. It’s where you’ll find the CEOs, and probably your coworkers. But a 2012 survey by Royal Pingdom found that the average age of a LinkedIn user is 44.2 years old (Facebook ticks slightly younger at 40.5). A more startling stat might be this one: 79 percent of LinkedIn users are over the age of 35, according to the Royal Pingdom study. In an April article on the phenomenon, BuzzFeed reporter Charlie Warzel notes the divide between younger and older users on the network. Though the tools on LinkedIn should be useful for budding careerists and recent grads, Warzel writes that the problem simply might come down to the “cool” factor: “For many younger users, LinkedIn is a place where they’re unlikely find a familiar face—an alienating club of people who remind them of, if anything, their parents.”

The company’s newest play: In an effort to try to hook students early, the company has lowered its minimum age for an account to 14 and is partnering with a number of universities to help connect prospective students with alumni, which could prove valuable to high schoolers charting their future career paths. Christina Allen, LinkedIn’s director of product management, told the Los Angeles Times that the network could offer something truly unique. “I knew that hidden in millions of member profiles were incredible insights about the career outcomes of educations from universities around the world,” she said. “If harnessed, these insights could provide incredible value for students.”

A lingering concern: LinkedIn faces another problem that’s an issue for many social networks: Younger generations might focus on newer networks such as Tumblr or Instagram, overlooking older, more-established ones. Some employers have changed their approach as well. Bloomberg Businessweek cites statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers that show many employers are already using Facebook heavily in their recruiting.

LinkedIn remains on a roll, with or without younger users. In the past eight months, the company has seen its stock price double on the strength of solid financial results. Even so, how to attract younger users to the network is a question LinkedIn knows it has to consider.

If you were in LinkedIn’s shoes, how would you recommend it expand its generational reach? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The company launched university pages designed to help interested high school or college students connect with alumni.(LinkedIn photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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