I’ve been using Linkedin.com for some time now. You can view my profile at www.linkedin.com/in/joshuasteimle. I’ve used the system for keeping track of contacts, marketing my firm, finding service providers, and finding employees. Up until recently, I could do all of this easily for free, but since Linkedin.com has to make money somehow, they have started providing additional services. The question is, are they worth paying for?

Here are Linkedin.com’s paid options.

As near as I can tell, the services you receive under a personal account are the same as were provided before any paid options became available. If this is correct, I think this is a wise move. Restricting the services I had previously recieved for free would have left a bad taste in my mouth, but offering me additional value-added services for a cost doesn’t harm me at all, but give me opportunities I previously didn’t have, if I’m willing to pay for them.

I think you can divide Linkedin.com users into three groups, some of whom will find a reason to pay and some who won’t. Here are the names and descriptions I’ve created for them:

1. Casual users. These users use Linkedin.com as a last or near-last resort, or if it happens to come to mind. They do not use it as an active part of their business, but merely when it’s convenient or they are reminded to.

2. Serious users. These users use Linkedin.com on a frequent basis and it in their minds it is a necessary tool they can’t do without. It is often the first place they look when recruiting or seeking service send invitations to who sign upproviders, if not always the first place they look.

3. Power users. These people have made Linkedin.com a part of their business model, and were it to disappear overnight they would feel devastated. They have come to depend on the tool and have taken full advantage of its capabilities.

I’m afraid I fall into the first group, and therefore I don’t see a reason to pay for the service. However, it wouldn’t take all that much to push me into the second group. But I don’t see it happening within the next year.

Those I see falling into the second and third groups are sales people and recruiters or hiring managers. These people have a need to be in contact with lots of other people on a daily basis, and I can see the additional services Linkedin.com provides being well worth the cost that becomes minimal as soon as you move out of group #1.

Can Linkedin.com survive with revenues from Google advertising and signups from sales people and recruiters? I don’t know and I won’t comment. What I am interested in is whether Linkedin.com is going to get creative about getting more people using the system.

Linkedin.com’s success will be determined, at least in part, by the sheer number of people signed up for the service, whether free or paid. In other words, the more people who sign up, the better, even if they’re free, because even free users ad to the advertising revenues, and a certain percentage of free users will eventually convert to paying users. How can Linkedin.com continue to increase the number of users? The system is already viral, and probably continues to grow exponentially. But I think this could be speeded up.

Those who get a lot of people to sign up on Linkedin.com are the service’s evangelists. They are free salespeople. Why not give them a reward? How about if for every five new users you get to sign up, you get a free month of one of the paid services? This would create the dual benefits to Linkedin.com of more users signing up faster, and would introduce many users of the free accounts to the benefits of a paid account, which they might be loathe to give up and would therefore keep referring people or start paying. Either way, Linkedin.com wins.

If you haven’t used the service before, I recommend signing up and trying it out. Feel free to invite me to join your network, I leave my profile open so anyone can contact me, although that doesn’t mean I accept connections from just anyone.