本文作者凯文•凯莱赫是旧金山湾区的一位作家。欢迎随时访问他的Twitter账号cafeteria table on Twitter。
That might look like an apples-to-oranges comparison, because Facebook's revenue in the most recent quarter was 5.7 times that of LinkedIn's. But consider two things: First, that only one year earlier, Facebook's revenue was 7.7 times that of LinkedIn's. So in the space of one year, that gap has narrowed significantly. As Facebook begins to face limits to its growth in the next year or so, the ratio could shrink even more.
And secondly, although LinkedIn is noticeably smaller, it's already getting more money from each user than Facebook. In the most recent quarter, LinkedIn took in $1.83 for every monthly user. Facebook took in $1.17. The number of LinkedIn's monthly active users grew 37% to 13 million over the past year. At Facebook, the number grew 33%.
So the number of users are growing comparably fast on both Facebook and LinkedIn. But as they do, LinkedIn is doing a better job of getting revenue from each user. And that's all investors need to know: As Facebook grows, it grows -- from a revenue standpoint -- indiscriminately. It reaches out to users who offer much personal value to each other, but little monetary value to Facebook investors.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, makes more money from each of its users even if they don't spend eight hours per month on its social network. (By one count, it's only 17 minutes per month.) But LinkedIn has managed to mine those precious minutes for all they're worth--– not through serving ads, but through job postings and premium subscriptions, which account for 54% and 20%, respectively, of LinkedIn revenue. Display and other ads only account for 26% of LinkedIn revenue.
But ads account for 82% of Facebook revenue. And that's the real apples-oranges difference between Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook relies heavily on advertising. And even though it's done a much better job of wringing ad revenue from its users than MySpace, it's still a social media company. Which means, on Facebook, people come for the content, but they don't click on the ads. That's why no one was surprised to hear that General Motors (GM) was disenchanted with Facebook.
LinkedIn, meanwhile, turned its social network into a job-hunting and recruitment site. It took the old adage that social media isn't a destination but a feature directed at a specific strategy. In doing so, it found a market it can serve for years, while Facebook invested billions in a platform that could be irrelevant tomorrow. (This single tweet made me wonder if that wasn't already happening: Didn't Facebook build its success on listening to people under 25?)
Put another way, LinkedIn is the social-media version of a printed-out resume. Facebook is the social media version of... what, a high-school cafeteria? Where you worry about whose table to sit at, who will eat with you and who you don't want to eat with?
Both of those are real-life situations with a lot of emotion to them. And social networks are driven by nothing if not by human emotion. But some of those emotions are about being an adolescent, and others are about being an adult finding one's place in the world. That is, one of these social networks is more grounded in the real world where people grow up.
Will the hundreds of millions of social media users grow up? Investors seem to be betting they will. They are – this week at least – pinning the future on LinkedIn.
Kevin Kelleher is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. You are always welcome to sit at hiscafeteria table on Twitter.