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(Glenn Lowson)
(Glenn Lowson)

Social networking

LinkedIn set to open shop in Canada Add to ...

Canadians have long been known as one of the world's busiest users of social networking websites. It's not just Facebook and Twitter – a growing number are networking for business and career reasons.

Networking site LinkedIn Corp. will announce this week it now has more than two million Canadian members on its site – almost double what it was just one year ago, making it one of its fastest-growing markets among the 200 countries it has members.

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The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which is geared to connecting professionals online, also plans to open an office and hire staff in Canada to meet that burgeoning demand.

An educated work force and robust economy are two factors luring the company. But so is Canada's high rates of social media usage.

“We look at a range of factors when we go into a country – including our penetration, how many professionals there are and also the overall economic opportunity. And in all of those measures, Canada scored really high,” Arvind Rajan, LinkedIn's vice-president of international operations, said in a telephone interview.

“To be honest, when we looked [at]Canada in depth, the only question was, why weren't we there earlier?”

LinkedIn is a private company that began in 2003 and now has 500 employees. The site connects people in the workplace, and job seekers with recruiters. It earns money through subscriptions, advertising and recruiting and says it's been profitable since 2007.

Members typically have a household income of more than $110,000 (U.S.) and are about 40 years old, with an equal split between men and women, spokeswoman Krista Canfield said. Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are members.

LinkedIn's growth accelerated in the recession, as job networking became more prevalent in an unstable economy. Pre-recession growth was about one million new members a month, which accelerated to one million members every two weeks in the summer of 2008 as layoffs mounted.

The company says it now has a new member joining about every second, for a total of more than 60 million members. Half its members are in the U.S., where it's now the third-largest networking site, according to ComScore, a company that measures web traffic.

Canada will mark LinkedIn's sixth office worldwide, and the company says the country has the fastest growth along with India, the Netherlands and Australia. Expanding its Canadian presence has become its top international priority, Mr. Rajan says.

Growth hasn't tapered off in the recovery. “A lot of people, even if they're not job searching, have realized how important it is to have a professional identity, to have all their business contacts in one place in case they need them,” Ms. Canfield said.

LinkedIn plans to open an office in Toronto in the next few months and is recruiting among its members to hire a country manager, followed by a sales and marketing team. It estimates hiring growth will track the U.K., which hired about 40 people in its first two years. It's vying for advertising dollars in the same pool as Canadian online job boards.

The company says Canadian membership is particularly strong among employees at small and medium-sized businesses.

Tom Napier, who sells automation systems at an Ontario manufacturer, is in that camp. He says networking on LinkedIn's site has helped win him orders in countries as far as the U.K., Belgium and South Africa.

“I've been able to form a lot of associations with people from around the world and it has brought business to my company,” said the senior sales account manager for PSI Engineering in Mississauga, who has more than 500 connections on his profile.

Almost eight in 10 Canadians use social media at least once a month, according to Forrester Research, making them some of the most active users in the world. It lists Facebook as “by far” the most popular social networking site. ComScore lists Canada as the world's most actively engaged country in social media.

 

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