The Best Social-Media Investment Ever


There are plenty of ways to get a potential employer's attention. Cloud writing, love notes, and juggling chainsaws are just a few of the methods I used to get this gig. But these days it seems like the best method is to create a profile on LinkedIn (NYS: LNKD) .

Earnings go up
In just over a year since its IPO, LinkedIn has become the largest professional network in the world: The site has 175 million members and 2 million companies from 200 countries. And after last week's second-quarter earnings release, it's apparent that LinkedIn will continue its astronomical growth.

According to the company's most recent earnings report, LinkedIn increased revenue 89% year over year to $228.2 million. This was thanks mainly to a dramatic rise in the number of subscribers, which grew from 161 million in Q2 2011 to 175 million this quarter. The company earned $0.16 per share -- right in line with analyst estimates. With these great earnings came another increase in revenue estimates from LinkedIn, which expects to make $915 million to $925 million this year.

LinkedIn is more than just a collection of resumes and unemployed college graduates. Its hiring solutions division lets employers pay LinkedIn to post job openings. Revenue for this division was $121.6 million, a year-over-year increase of 107%.

On the other side of the hiring coin is the premium-subscription segment, for users who want to pay extra for better features, such as introductions to companies. Revenue from premium subscriptions rose 82% over the prior-year quarter for a total of $43.5 million.

Finally, the marketing solutions segment deals in advertising, which most Internet companies depend upon for the majority of their revenue. However, according to LinkedIn, marketing solutions made up 28% of total revenue in the second quarter, which shows that the company is focused on the employment portion of the business. Advertising brought in $63.1 million this quarter for a 64% increase year over year.

What's next?
Although these are the three main branches of LinkedIn, the company has several other irons in the fire. Perhaps the biggest of these is the deal the company made with Microsoft to have a version of LinkedIn's Social Connector included in every Microsoft Office suite shipped with Windows 8. This is a potential blockbuster for LinkedIn, not only because hundreds of millions of Windows users will automatically have LinkedIn handy, but because by targeting Windows users, LinkedIn also targets its favorite demographic: professionals.

Adding to the diverse revenue streams feeding LinkedIn is the company's international and mobile presence. According to LinkedIn, 61% of members are from outside the U.S., and 22% of unique visitors used mobile devices to access the site. In the earnings call, CEO Jeff Weiner pointed out that "of the more than 13 million new members added during Q2, more than 70% came from outside the U.S., underscoring LinkedIn's global reach." This quarter, however, 65% of total revenue came from the U.S.

Threats and bogeymen
But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for the employment site. Net income fell from $4.5 million in Q2 2011 to $2.8 million this quarter -- a dramatic decline. Although the company didn't explicitly state why this had happened, you can learn a lot from the earnings report. Sales and marketing increased to 31% of revenue, research and development took 22% of revenue, and gains and acquisitions accounted for 12%. Investors shouldn't mind the decline in income too much if the money is being put toward future growth and development.

With a P/E of 986 (compared to the industry average of 22), LinkedIn is "wildly expensive," as Fool analyst Joe Magyer said. With such a high P/E, the stock is priced to absolute perfection, and one slip-up could cost the company dearly. Then again, it hasn't slipped yet; it just keeps growing and growing.

The company may also be plagued with security issues. In early June, 6.5 million passwords were leaked on a Russian hacker site, which meant that the security of more than 4% of LinkedIn users at the time was compromised. The news didn't hurt LinkedIn's share price too badly, and considering the nearly 14 million new subscribers who joined the site this quarter, it didn't shake confidence in the site, either. Still, if any more breaches in security are reported, then LinkedIn's stock could get hit hard.

Monster who?
Perhaps the best way to establish the value of LinkedIn is to compare it to its main competitor, Monster Worldwide (NYS: MWW) . It just so happens that Monster posted earnings last week as well, but things didn't go nearly as well for the job-matching site. Revenue at the company fell $32.7 million, or 12%. Meanwhile, earnings per share dropped to $0.04, compared with $0.09 last year. All of this forced Monster to reduce earnings expectations for next quarter. This report only serves to highlight what investors and job seekers alike already know: LinkedIn is the smarter choice.

LinkedIn is now the 26th-most visited website in the world, and the company only continues to kick butt with great earnings and huge subscription increases. Unfortunately, all this highflying has led to a pretty swollen P/E, which most investors are going to avoid. The stock may be in for some deceleration as investors take profits, and if that happens, it'll be the perfect time to buy.

LinkedIn isn't the only Internet stock on our radar these days. In fact, there's one Chinese website that the Fool has been paying close attention to -- and you should as well. If you want to learn more about this high-growth stock, check out our premium report.

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Fool contributorMark Reethhas a LinkedIn profile; you should definitely go check it out. Or, better yet, follow him on Twitter@ChristmasReeth.The Motley Fool owns shares of Linkedin, and has recommended buying shares of Linkedin. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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