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How LinkedIn built a Community

of Half a Billion

Aatif Awan
Vice President, Growth & International Products at LinkedIn


What was it like before LinkedIn?

LinkedIn Grew from 500K to 500 Million in 13 years

About me

VP Growth, International & Data products at LinkedIn

Have led LinkedIn growth for 6+ years, helping grow

LinkedIn by 400M+ members

Leading LinkedIn-Microsoft product integrations
Story of Growth @ LinkedIn
Growth @ LinkedIn: 2003-2007
LinkedIn Member Growth

Product market fit. Growth built into

product from the start.

Reid Hoffman and team invited well-

connected people in the industry.

Public profiles launch in 2006, became a

second major growth channel due to SEO.
4M 8M
0.1M 2M

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Growth @ LinkedIn: 2008-2011
LinkedIn Member Growth

Dedicated cross-functional growth team

(~15 people) focused on acquisition.

Identified drivers for key channels and


145M International expansion. Saw 100%+ lifts

in growth for most markets where we
55M translated into local language.
4M 8M
0.1M 2M

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Growth @ LinkedIn: 2012- 2016
Expanded to cover acquisition, activation,
LinkedIn Member Growth
connections, retention and resurrection,
484 M

Focus on quality: signups -> quality
347M signups -> engaged quality members

Invested heavily in mobile and
partnerships and continued international
89M expansion
0.1M 2M 4M 8M 17M
Continue international expansion with
focus on China and India.
Growth @ LinkedIn: Whats Next?

Product integrations with Microsoft are the biggest growth opportunity

Growth Team Organization Today
International &
Core Growth Data Products
Segment Growth

Discovery (SEO) &

China Experimentation

Network Growth India Reporting

New Markets
Notifications &
(Germay, Japan, Standardization
Principles vs. Tactics
Ignore the hype about Growth Hacks and Tactics
Focus on principles, not tactics

Principles >> Strategy >> Tactics

Tactics have a short shelf life.
If all you know are tactics, you will likely apply them
Once you understand the principles, you can find the
right tactics and even come up with your own.
What weve learned along the way
Growth is about accelerating the realization of your vision,
not moving metrics up-and-to-the-right.

At LinkedIn, our vision is to create

economic opportunity for every member
of the global workforce.

Growth team accelerates this through

creation of the economic graph that
connects people, companies, jobs and

Taking this view led us to focus on

quality signups, not just signups
Pick one North Star metric, measure everything

Define one north star metric that:

Is aligned with the success of your business
Measures value for users
Is summable

Sometimes, one is not possible. Go for as few as you can.

Measure everything and tie it back to the north star metric.

Good product comes first, growth second
Investing in growth before you
have a good product is a waste of %age of users engaging by weeks since signup

Measure product goodness with

long-term retention (curve should Good retention
flatten over time) and through
customer feedback

If your retention isnt good, Bad retention

nothing else matters. Improve it

by delivering core product value
early and often.
But we needed to do more

For products with network effects or marketplace dynamics

(LinkedIn has both), you need to achieve a good product and
growth simultaneously.
Products get better with more users and can be useless without a critical mass.

We solved for this by building two powerful growth engines from

the start.
Investing in multiple scalable growth channels multiplies
your odds of success

Being dependent on a single growth channel

is a strategic liability.

Have at least one core channel, invest in

strategic channels like new platforms and
have some venture bets.

We developed two core channels: Viral

growth through members building their
networks by importing contacts and SEO of
people profiles.
Identifying Growth Channels
User Behavior Channels to explore

Are people using search to find a solution? SEO, SEM

Do existing users share your product via word

of mouth? Virality, referrals

Does having more users improve the experience?


Are your target users already on another

platform? Partnership, Integration

Do users have a high LTV? Paid acquisition

Break down each Channel into Drivers
Channel Drivers

%age importing contacts,

Virality # of contacts imported,
%age inviting,
# of invites sent,
CTR on invites,
Sign up conversion
Quality signup rate

Measure everything and tie it back to the north star metric.

Growth Requires Continuous Prioritization and Feedback

channels and

Build, A/B Brainstorm

test and hypotheses
measure and ideas

based on Assess
impact, impact on
probability of north star
success and metric
A/B Testing => Always Be Testing

The more you experiment, the faster you learn and innovate.

It can resolve long-disputed strategy questions and break down

long-held myths.

You can A/B test most things

Weve done statistically significant tests to measure impact on customer complaints
on an issue with a volume of a few hundred/week
SEO A/B testing can be very effective

As your user demographics change over time, repeating old

tests can lead to new insights.
Hiring the right people


Gets shit done

Curious asks why?

Finds new ways to do things asks why not?

Prior growth experience is optional


Data trumps opinions

Set ambitious goals

Move fast

Learn continuously

Celebrate wins
Final thought Id leave you with

Don't be satisfied with stories, how

things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth
Thank you!

Aatif Awan
Vice President, Growth & International Products at LinkedIn