LinkedIn Premium plans aren’t cheap, and they're not an easy sell for many users. However, there's an army of people who pay for LinkedIn Premium on a monthly basis. Why do they pay $30, $60, $80 or even $120 per month for access to LinkedIn Premium’s special features and data? And more importantly, should you?
LinkedIn Premium acts as a sort of exclusive club for job seekers, recruiters and sales professionals, and the fees can be considered vanity costs. Some LinkedIn users quickly decide to return to the free version, but many others continue to pay for LinkedIn Premium even after they accomplish specific goals.
In February 2017, following the company’s acquisition by Microsoft, LinkedIn added new features to its LinkedIn Premium subscription plans, designed to make better use of both existing and new data sets the company is gathering on salary, company details and educational courses its users are completing on LinkedIn Learning, a new service the company repackaged in September 2016 after its 2015 acquisition of Lynda.com. The company has also more recently surpassed 500 million registered users, added more news curation with trending storylines, and introduced a new messaging interface that is more readily accessible throughout the site.
These new additions increase the value of LinkedIn Premium and are aimed at improving the direct outcomes delivered through LinkedIn data on businesses, careers and education, says Gyanda Sachdeva, senior director of product management and head of LinkedIn Premium subscription products.
[ Don't get caught in a dead end. Read The working dead: IT jobs bound for extension. | Check out the hottest jobs in IT and the most valuable IT certs today. | Get the latest insights by signing up for our CIO newsletter. ]
“The goal for us on the Premium team is to deliver direct economic outcomes to our members,” LinkedIn’s Sachdeva says.
Here is an overview of what LinkedIn Premium offers and whether it’s right for you.
What to expect from LinkedIn Premium
LinkedIn Premium is offered in four tiers, ranging from $29.99 to $47.99 per month for job seekers, $64.99 per month for sales professionals, and $99.95 per month for recruiters.
The base version, Premium Career, is aimed at job seekers who are willing to spend $29.99 a month for three InMail messages (messages that can be sent to any LinkedIn user, no connection necessary), additional details on the people who view their profiles, and more tools to help make those profiles stand out to recruiters.
The next tier, Premium Business, includes 15 InMail messages, advanced search filters, unlimited searches in your extended network and additional company data. Premium Business is available for $47.99 per month when billed annually.
LinkedIn Premium's Sales Navigator Professional version gives you a lead-builder tool, lead recommendations and real-time insights on existing accounts and leads, as well as 20 InMail messages for $80 per month. It can be purchased for $64.99 per month as a one-time annual payment. Sales Navigator Professional also comes in a multi-seat version, Sales Navigator Team, which includes 30 InMail messages, 25 Out-of-Network profile unlocks, 10 PointDrive presentations and more for $99.99 per month, when billed annually.
Finally, the Big Kahuna of LinkedIn Premium, Recruiter Lite, costs $99.95 per month, when billed annually. It gives you 30 InMail messages, advanced search, unlimited visibility of your extended network, automatic candidate tracking and integrated hiring, with a recruiting-specific design. It can be purchased for $99.99 per month when billed annually. Recruiter Lite is also the base tier of LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions.
Each Premium tier can be demoed for free for one month.
LinkedIn Premium bonus: LinkedIn Learning and LinkedIn Salary
LinkedIn Learning and LinkedIn Salary (a service launched in November 2016 to track and analyze salaries globally) are now included with all four versions of LinkedIn Premium. Job seekers can also see how they stack up against other potential applicants using LinkedIn Salary. Professionals can view more unique and timely data on specific businesses, including trends in headcount, geographic expansion, employee turnover and other information useful for competitive analysis, according to LinkedIn.
“Over time we have developed more coverage and precision on some of these data points,” Sachdeva says. LinkedIn is also surfacing this information in new ways, according to Sachdeva. For example, when Premium subscribers look at LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed My Profile” feature they will now see more pertinent data on the particular companies whose employees are viewing their profile.
“We are seeing a shift in the mindset going away from just purely job seeking to also optimizing your career,” Sachdeva says. Subscribers who may not actively be seeking a new job could uncover gaps in pay for their profession and use data from LinkedIn Salary to negotiate a better salary in their current position, for example.
Who subscribes to LinkedIn Premium?
LinkedIn doesn’t release subscriber counts for its Premium products, but the division reported a year-over-year increase in revenue of 17 percent on $162 million during its third quarter of 2016. Microsoft officially closed its acquisition of LinkedIn in December 2016, and LinkedIn Premium numbers were not provided in Microsoft’s most recent earnings report in January 2017; as of late 2016, however, Sales Navigator remained the fastest growing bundle in LinkedIn’s Premium subscriptions.
LinkedIn Premium is predominantly comprised of customers in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to Sachdeva. All of the LinkedIn Premium enhancements are now available to subscribers, according to the company.
Sachdeva says LinkedIn is focusing on ways to grow the business and has no immediate plan to change pricing. “The goal actually has been the opposite where we just want to add a lot more value and keep the price the same with the intention of improving customer [return on investment],” she says.
Is LinkedIn Premium worth the money?
For most users, LinkedIn Premium is a sound investment, thanks to the tools and insights it offers.
Mike O'Neil, who has paid for LinkedIn Premium since the day it was initially offered, says the most valuable tools you get with LinkedIn Premium are InMail messages, advanced search and additional results in search queries. O’Neil has built a business around the platform, as president of Integrated Alliances, where he consults with and trains managers, marketing teams and sales professionals.
The benefits of LinkedIn Premium aren't always immediately apparent. They can be "very long term, but it depends on how you use it and how you keep up with it," O'Neil says. "Once you close your first deal as a result of LinkedIn, it changes everything."
LinkedIn Premium's biggest barrier to adoption is cost, according to O'Neil. "The packages being offered now are overpriced in terms of what people are expecting," he says. O'Neil suggests the market would be more receptive to a $20-a-month baseline business package.
LinkedIn Premium's disjointed levels of service are dizzying, even for O'Neil, who hopes LinkedIn addresses that point of confusion, introduces new features and promotes a lower, entry-level price for premium services.
Jack Martin, CEO and founder of Technology Jobs NYC, says LinkedIn Premium is an "incredibly valuable tool" in his line of work. Martin especially appreciates the capability to search LinkedIn's entire database and quickly send InMail messages to job candidates.
"The biggest downside is that some individuals are overwhelmed with requests, and it can drive very smart and talented people away from the service," Martin says.
Anthony Kirlew, co-founder of digital marketing agency Imagine Wow, also agrees that LinkedIn Premium is worth the price. Kirlew says LinkedIn Premium can quickly pay for itself for anyone in a business development role. "Many users, especially at the executive level, maintain privacy settings that restrict users from connecting with them," he says. InMail messages help facilitate connections with these people.
David Coher purchased LinkedIn Premium a year ago, and he says it provides value for him almost every month. In his role as principal of reliability and cybersecurity at Southern California Edison, Greater Los Angeles's electric utility, Coher says it's important for him to make new connections and elevate his profile among people with whom he shares a mutual connection or interest.
"I find that people are more likely to respond to a LinkedIn InMail message than to a traditional email," he says.
For this reason and others, Coher encourages his peers to sign up for LinkedIn Premium, and it is one of the first things he suggests when someone comes to him for career advice.
"I noticed a marked increase in the number of viewers of my profile once I signed up for the LinkedIn Premium service," Coher says. "I notice when someone — a vendor, a job applicant, a connection otherwise — has a LinkedIn Premium profile, and it does make an impact on me. I note it as that person cares about appearing professional in their online presence."
Making the LinkedIn leap from free to premium
O'Neil calls LinkedIn Premium the "best monthly investment I have ever made," though he also says users can still get plenty of value from the free version.
The decision to pay for LinkedIn Premium should be a simple one for job seekers and professionals working on sales, recruiting or human resources, management, marketing or public relations, according to O'Neil.
"Unfortunately, many people pay for LinkedIn and they don't put in the effort," he says. "It's kind like an athletic club membership."
O'Neil says the challenge for most people isn't paying attention to LinkedIn, it's deciding whether or not to pay for the premium service — and then what to do with it if they make the investment.
"If you might like a better career path, LinkedIn is the centerpiece of that," he says.