Facebook Stock Gains, But Rival Threatens Market Share

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As Facebook stock (Nasdaq: FB) keeps climbing from its all-time low last week of $17.55 a share, business-oriented networking site LinkedIn has introduced some new features that resemble those of Facebook.

LinkedIn last week rolled out a new notification system and launched an update for its iPhone, iPad and Android apps. The updates now inform a member when someone likes or comments on one of their status updates – just like Facebook, the social networking leader.

In the past LinkedIn only sent notifications if someone sent a member a message or extended an invitation to become a connection.

In a statement, the company gushed, "You'll never miss a comment or update to an engaging discussion about a news article or trending topic on LinkedIn."

LinkedIn's head of mobile products Joff Redfern said in an interview that the update will also let a member peruse company pages and job postings on smartphones and tablets. According to Redfern, users requested the feature so they could covertly browse for jobs while at work.

The latest moves highlight how LinkedIn is morphing from a headhunting and career-networking site into something bigger. Facebook big.

Editor's Note: Don't let Wall Street fool you.

LinkedIn Gaining on Facebook

Redfern explained that the mobile app updates, which started about a year ago and were revamped in April and May of this year, are thanks to the thriving traffic generated from smartphones and tablets. Those numbers have jumped from just 10% a year ago to 23% — and are forecast to grow much larger.

LinkedIn has been quick to recognize and embrace the explosive growth of the mobile movement, unlike Facebook which has been lagging to capitalize on the drift. LinkedIn does a much better job of monetizing its members than Facebook has done.

Currently, LinkedIn boats roughly 175 million users dotted in more than 200 countries and territories. It continues to enjoy the No. 1 position as the leading professional social networking site in the U.S. and is growing in Europe and Asia. LinkedIn maintains it adds about 1 million members every 10 days.

Meanwhile, Facebook has amassed approximately one billion users, but its traffic is slowing down. Citi analyst Mark Mahaney recently wrote in a note to clients that Facebook's unique visitors in the U.S. slumped 6% year-over-year in August, on top of a 1% decline in July.

"This marks the first material decline in traffic to Facebook we've seen to date," wrote Mahaney.

The Mountain View, CA-based company's drive for growth and revenue has in part been propelled by Wall Street's fascination with the stock. Since going public on May 19, 2011, LinkedIn's stock has been on a tear. Shares hit a 52-week high last week.

In contrast, since Facebook's debut on May 18 of this year, shares have been halved and repeatedly hit fresh lows until last week when CEO Mark Zuckerberg gallantly stepped in and pledged not to sell any shares for at least a year, staving the fall at least temporarily.

To date, since Facebook's IPO and its subsequent flop, LinkedIn stock has soared some 14% while Facebook shares have sunk 51%.

LinkedIn: Breaking into China

Another area in which LinkedIn is surpassing Facebook is in China.

While other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have been gridlocked in China, LinkedIn has not faced the same kind of problems. The company believes it could quickly amass millions of members among the working professionals in Mainland China.

Arvind Rajan, LinkedIn's VP and Asia Pacific managing director said at the CHINICT Tech conference in Beijing last May, "We hear from our members globally every day, "When are we going to be bigger in China?' They want to do more business in China. They want to hire people in China. We also hear from Chinese companies that they want to hire people on a global basis."

Admittedly, LinkedIn is subject to some competition from the Asian nation's homegrown versions such as Ushi (Outstanding Professional) and Tianji.com, but the company is making inroads there.

Conversely, Facebook has been shut out of China and upholds it has no immediate plans to enter the country.

In a February interview Zuckerberg told journalist Charlie Rose, "A simple rule in business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress."

But the fact remains that the longer Facebook stalls on working on a China approach, the harder it will be to enter the country.

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