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LinkedIn Free vs LinkedIn Premium - What's Right for You

LinkedIn Free vs LinkedIn Premium - What's Right for You
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Are you a professional looking to build your personal brand on LinkedIn or perhaps acquire some leads? 

Over the years, LinkedIn has become a favourite tool for professionals all over the world, for its ability to help meet these goals.

The platform helps professionals connect with each other over shared interests, share helpful content, and develop professional brands. But while LinkedIn offers a helpful free version, you may be wondering if investing in its feature-rich premium version could yield better results.

In this article, we’ll explore this topic, looking at how LinkedIn can benefit you, and whether upgrading to the premium version is necessary to enjoy these benefits. Let’s get started!

How Does LinkedIn Help Professionals?

LinkedIn offers tons of features designed for professionals. Regardless of your industry, position, and the stage of your career, you may find these features extremely useful:

1. Networking Opportunities

LinkedIn has over a billion members worldwide, making it one of the most popular social networking sites in the world. This vast network helps to ensure you have a ready audience for your content and ideas. 

Similar to other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, LinkedIn has paved the way for thousands of professional influencers and thought leaders, even without many of them having to use the paid version.

As Thomas Medlin, Co-founder at JumpMD, puts it, “We’re in the age of the crowd. Gone are the days when marketers and salespersons had to go door to door to have conversations. Today, thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, we are able to have meaningful discussions at an incredible scale.”

2. Connecting with Peers

Even if your goals do not include becoming a popular influencer in your industry, LinkedIn remains an effective platform to connect with other professionals and stakeholders. 

Simply staying connected in this way can mean access to opportunities that might have passed you by otherwise. Additionally, having a reasonably sized network may help to demonstrate that you are a respected professional within your industry.

3. Job Search and Recruitment

In addition to helping professionals build networks and grow their connections, one of the things that LinkedIn is known for is being one of the biggest and most effective platforms for online job hunting. 

The site hosts thousands of job adverts, enabling job seekers to select opportunities that best match their skills and interests. Furthermore, it provides tools that help recruiters identify and target the best talent based on their profiles. 

LinkedIn facilitates this by allowing users to create detailed profiles that highlight skills, work history, education, and achievements, effectively serving as a digital CV. You’ll even be able to download your LinkedIn profile in CV format.

4. Industry Insights and Learning

In 2015, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com, a popular digital provider of professional courses. This has meant that it is now able to offer an extensive learning platform featuring a vast collection of courses and tutorials taught by experienced professionals. 

Regardless of how experienced you are, these courses provide a valuable opportunity to gain cutting-edge, practical knowledge, validated by certifications, or simply to refresh your knowledge.

5. Business Development

LinkedIn is a crucial tool for professionals looking to build lead pipelines and generate new business opportunities. Sales professionals, in particular, can use LinkedIn to prospect B2B sales leads, leveraging powerful paid features like LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Businesses can also utilize LinkedIn’s company pages to showcase products, services, and company culture, enhancing their brand visibility and attracting both talent and clients.

6. Content Sharing and Thought Leadership

Publishing posts, articles, PDFs and even videos with helpful insights is an excellent way to build a profile as a thought leader in any field. 

LinkedIn provides both a ready audience of professionals looking to consume such content, as well as one of the world’s largest content publishing platforms for all content types. This makes LinkedIn the platform of choice for establishing thought leadership.

Tom Golubovich, Head of Marketing & Media Relations at Ninja Transfers says, “It’s almost impossible to quantify the impact of thought leadership on building any brand whether as a business or as an individual professional. Yes, you can count engagement metrics, but often the value of thought leadership is exponential.”

This is a sentiment that Brooke Webber, Head of Marketing at Ninja Patches, echoes, saying, “One of the pillars of modern branding is thought leadership. People need to know that they can trust you and once you’ve won their trust, that’s about half of a marketer’s job done.”

As we’ve shown, LinkedIn offers immense potential for marketers and other professionals. However, whether you should opt for a paid plan or stick with the free version depends on your specific goals. We will discuss our perspective and insights from leading experts on this topic in the next section.

What are the Pros and Cons of the Free Version of LinkedIn?

While it does not quite match the range and power of the features offered by LinkedIn Premium, the free version of LinkedIn is quite powerful too. Here are some of its advantages.

The Pros of Using the Free Version of LinkedIn

1. Networking Opportunities

LinkedIn's free version allows professionals to connect with a vast network of individuals across industries and geographic locations. There is potentially no limit to just how wide your professional network can grow if you apply the correct LinkedIn optimization and growth strategies, even without using a paid plan.

As Logan Mallory, Vice President of Marketing at Motivosity, says, “If you’re starting out with a low budget, then fancy tools shouldn’t necessarily be a priority. With a bit of hard work, you can grow your profile and establish a reputation simply through tactics like content marketing.”

Users of both LinkedIn’s free and paid plans can browse and apply for job postings directly on LinkedIn. With thousands of jobs posted daily across the world, you are bound to find some opportunities that suit you.

3. Profile Building 

The free version of LinkedIn offers a ton of helpful features that make it easy for professionals to build, maintain, and promote their personal profiles.

In support of this view, Alan Parkes, Owner of Denver Roofing & Colorado Springs Roofing shares, “LinkedIn is quite a helpful tool for any professional. For instance, users can showcase their skills, work experience, education, and achievements, all of which enhance visibility and credibility, and help to attract new connections and followers, for free.”

4. Content Sharing: 

Thought leadership is one of the most powerful and affordable tools available to every professional, and no platform makes this quite as easy to leverage as LinkedIn. 

Even without subscribing to LinkedIn Premium, you’ll be able to share updates, articles, and posts to engage with their network and demonstrate your expertise and interests. 

The Cons of Using the Free Version of LinkedIn

Despite the impressive range of features we mentioned above, here are some potential downsides to using the limited, free version of LinkedIn:

1. Limited Analytics

The free version of LinkedIn does not offer helpful features like detailed analytics on profile views and applicant insights that you’d get on LinkedIn Premium. 

2. Less Visibility

Naturally, the profiles of paid LinkedIn users are displayed more prominent in search results, when compared to the profiles of users with free accounts. If you’re actively seeking opportunities such as a new job, this may not be ideal.

3. Messaging Limitations

Free users face restrictions on the number of InMail messages they can send to individuals outside their network. LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for lead generation out there, but with restrictions on messaging, marketers may find the platform to be severely limited.

4. Advertising

Free users do not have access to LinkedIn's advertising platform, which limits their ability to promote themselves or their content to a wider audience.

Should You Get the Paid Version of LinkedIn?

Depending on your needs, an investment in LinkedIn Premium could be the difference between standing out and getting lost in the crowd. However, you may not have a genuine need for some or all of the features we’ve discussed.

Axel Lavergne, Founder at ReviewFlowz reiterates this view and offers the following advice: “No matter how powerful a tool is, the real question is whether you have a genuine need case for its features. If there’s a free version, it's always smart to start with this and see if it meets your needs. If it doesn’t then it’ll be time to consider making the upgrade.”

Here are some of the benefits on offer when you sign up for LinkedIn Premium:

1. Increased Visibility

Generally, people subscribed to LinkedIn Premium will appear more prominently in search results. If you’re looking for jobs or other opportunities, this is exactly what you’d want. You will, however, have to decide if the increased visibility is worth the extra cost.

2. InMail Messaging

Unlike the users of the free version of LinkedIn, Premium members can use  InMail messages, which would allow them to send messages to LinkedIn members outside of their network. 

3. Profile Views Insights

Premium users can see more detailed insights about who viewed their profile, including job titles, demographics and companies. This can be a source of valuable information to help guide networking and job-seeking efforts.

According to Jerry Han, CMO at PrizeRebel, “Data is the centerpiece of all modern marketing. This makes tools that offer insights into data incredibly valuable to every business, and you don’t even need particularly sophisticated tools all the time. A tool as basic as LinkedIn’s profile views insights, for example, can help a jobseeker make impactful tweaks to their profile.”

4. Learning and Skill Development

LinkedIn Premium provides full access to the courses and learning material on the LinkedIn learning platform, providing members with access to courses that might cost significantly more on other platforms. Most of these also offer certifications.

5. Salary Insights

Salary insights are only available on LinkedIn Premium, giving paid users the opportunity to see salary ranges for specific job titles and locations. For job seekers and recruiters, this information can be a powerful tool for negotiation. 

According to Jonathan Feniak, General Counsel at LLC Attorney, “When it comes to negotiations of any kind, your first and most powerful weapon is information. Whether you’re a multi-national corporation with sophisticated business intelligence tools, or a jobseeker leveraging Linkedin, information is the name of the game.”

7. Open Profiles

If your primary goal on LinkedIn is to build your network or grow a following, LinkedIn Premium offers useful advanced tools. For example, you’ll be able to have an open profile, which would allow any LinkedIn member to message you even if you aren’t connected, potentially expanding your reach far beyond your current network. 

8. Advanced Search Filters

Premium users have access to more advanced search filters, allowing them to refine their searches for jobs, companies, and individuals based on specific criteria such as industry, company size, and years of experience.

Overall, the paid version of LinkedIn (Premium) offers enhanced visibility, messaging capabilities, learning resources, and job insights that can be valuable for professionals looking to boost their career prospects and networking efforts. However, it comes with a cost and may not be necessary or suitable for everyone depending on their specific career goals.

Should You Use the Free or Paid Version of LinkedIn?

Ultimately, you should consider the points we’ve discussed in this article and make the choice that best serves your needs. And if you enjoyed reading this article, you may enjoy reading this guide to the top LinkedIn automation tools for busy professionals.