LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network with over 722 million members worldwide. On LinkedIn, members can connect with other professionals, search for jobs, publish content, and join industry groups. One of the key features of LinkedIn is messaging, which allows members to communicate directly with each other.
LinkedIn offers several types of messages for communication between members. The main types are:
- InMail – Allows members to message anyone on LinkedIn, even if they’re not connected. InMails are available through premium subscriptions.
- Open messaging – Free messages between connected members. This is LinkedIn’s version of direct messaging.
- Group messages – Allow conversations between members of the same LinkedIn group.
Of these options, open messaging between connected members is free. InMails and group messages may also be free up to a limit, depending on the user’s account type. So why does LinkedIn offer free messaging at all?
LinkedIn’s Freemium Business Model
The reason LinkedIn can offer free messaging is related to their overall business model. LinkedIn operates on a “freemium” model, which means some basic services are offered for free, while more advanced features require a paid subscription.
This freemium approach serves multiple strategic purposes:
- Attracts users – The free services entice professionals to join LinkedIn.
- Provides network effects – More users make LinkedIn more valuable for all members.
- Upsells premium services – Once users are invested, some convert to paid subscriptions.
Messaging is a core part of user engagement on LinkedIn. By offering free messaging capabilities, LinkedIn can acquire more users and increase network effects. Some of these users ultimately convert to paid subscriptions to unlock more messaging capabilities and access premium features.
Open Messaging Drives Engagement
One goal of providing free open messaging to LinkedIn members is to drive user engagement. Messaging provides an easy way for members to communicate and participate on the platform. The more members are engaged, the more time they spend on LinkedIn and the more data the company can gather to support advertising and premium products. Key points on how open messaging drives engagement include:
- Makes connecting easy – Once connected, members can seamlessly message each other for free.
- Facilitates networking – Members network by messaging professionals in their industry or location.
- Enables support conversations – Members can message each other to provide support and advice.
- Allows group discussions – Group members can message each other to further conversations.
This engagement helps LinkedIn gain a deeper understanding of its members’ interests, needs, and professional networks. These insights allow LinkedIn to improve recommendations, targeting, and premium services.
Messaging Increases User Retention
In addition to driving engagement, free messaging also helps improve user retention. When members actively engage on the platform through messaging, they are more likely to return to LinkedIn regularly. Key factors about how messaging improves retention include:
- Communication draws users back – Messaging creates a habit of checking LinkedIn for responses.
- Ongoing conversations – Discussions spark multiple back-and-forth messages over time.
- Relationship building – Messaging connections strengthens professional relationships.
- Sense of community – Conversing makes members feel part of the LinkedIn community.
This increased retention means members are more frequently exposed to things that could convert them to premium subscribers, such as ads, recommendations for premium features, and prompts to complete their profile.
Opportunities to Upsell
While LinkedIn wants to provide some free messaging to maximize engagement, they also want to convert free members to paying subscribers. Open messaging gives LinkedIn touchpoints to upsell premium services. For example:
- Message limit reminders – Free members receive notices when they reach their monthly limit.
- InMail ads – Ads promote purchasing InMail packages when members can’t message someone.
- Premium prompts – LinkedIn highlights advanced messaging features with prompts to upgrade.
- Sales messages – Customer service touches on open messaging help convert members.
By strategically showcasing premium offerings within the free messaging experience, LinkedIn improves their likelihood of monetizing engaged members through paid subscriptions.
Messaging Use by Account Type
Different account types have different access to LinkedIn messaging features. This is summarized in the table below:
|Up to 20/month
|Up to 10/month
|Up to 25/month
|Sales Navigator Pro
|Up to 50/month
|Up to 25/month
|Up to 150/month
Free members have very limited messaging capabilities. To fully engage with other members, Premium, Pro, and Recruiter subscriptions are required. Offering restricted free messaging helps turn some free members into paying subscribers over time.
Beyond subscription revenue, LinkedIn also monetizes free members through advertising. Key facts about LinkedIn advertising include:
- Ads are personalized using member data.
- Engaged members see more ads.
- Messaging increases time spent on site.
- More page views and time exposes more ads.
Although free members don’t directly pay for access, their engagement provides value by allowing LinkedIn to show targeted ads. The advertising revenue generated helps offset the costs of providing free services.
Sponsored Content Ads
Sponsored content refers to advertiser posts that appear in LinkedIn’s news feed. This is LinkedIn’s fastest growing ad product. Key facts include:
- Appear in news feeds like regular posts.
- Clearly labeled as “Sponsored.”
- Members see relevant ads based on profile data.
- Ads can contain images, video, and links.
- Advertisers pay for clicks, impressions, or conversions.
The more members interact with LinkedIn, the more opportunities to expose them to sponsored content. Free messaging helps drive this engagement with the platform.
Sponsored InMail allows advertisers to directly message LinkedIn members who match certain criteria. Details include:
- Messages sent through member’s LinkedIn InMail account
- Identified as sponsored messages.
- Used for one-to-one targeting.
- Prices based on member segments and response rates.
Active InMail users see more sponsored messages in their inbox. Free members who convert to InMail subscriptions increase opportunities for Sponsored InMail ads.
The data LinkedIn gathers from open messaging also benefits their business in other ways. Specifically:
- Improves ad targeting – Analyzing conversations provides insights into member interests and professional roles.
- Refines product development – Feedback and usage data guides creation of new features.
- Personalizes platform experience – Data fuels algorithms for personalized recommendations and content.
- Provides sales leads – Interactions identify potential leads for business products.
- Informs strategic decisions – Executives rely on engagement metrics and trends.
The more members communicate, the more data LinkedIn can leverage to enhance monetization opportunities beyond messaging itself.
In summary, LinkedIn offers free open messaging between connected members as part of its freemium business model. This provides value to members, drives increased engagement, improves retention, and gives opportunities to upsell premium subscriptions.
While some messaging capabilities are free, limits encourage professionals to upgrade to paid accounts to fully access LinkedIn’s communication features. Alongside subscription revenue, the member activity and data associated with free messaging also generates advertising income and valuable business insights for LinkedIn.