IF you have a LinkedIn profile and have been using the site, stop reading because you probably already know this, or you might not want to know.
This week, the social network for business professionals that claims 30 million members began exposing information about its users’ companies to the outside world on what it calls company profile pages. Here’s an example of one for Ebay .
LinkedIn says it has 160,000 such profile pages for everything from the largest public companies to the smallest home-based businesses, and it is partnering with McGraw-Hill’s BusinessWeek/Capital IQ to package this information for researchers of all kinds who are not members.
The fact that there are stock charts on these pages should give you a hint as to who they think might be interested in their data. And is it ever interesting data! Here’s some of what you can get:
- How many woman versus men the company employs;
- The average age of employees;
- The most common job titles at the company;
- Which schools employees mostly attended;
- Who has recently been promoted or hired by the company, their titles and where they worked before;
- Which other companies employees are most linked to ;
- Where employees go when they leave the company; and,
- Who the most popular people at the company are.
Deep insights for investors
Now all of this might seem completely innocuous to those who are sharing their information with LinkedIn, but for researchers on the outside who want better insights into companies they’re interested in, the data can be deeply revealing , especially of smaller companies.
Say, for instance, you’re interested in investing in a small-cap medical research company that is conducting late-stage clinical trials on a promising new artificial brain (just pretend). No one knows yet if the thing is going to work out and be fast-tracked for approval by the authorities.
But you go to the company’s LinkedIn page and notice that in the past month it has hired four new sales executives away from larger medical device companies. Now what use would a small company with no marketable product have for experienced sales people? Exactly, those recent hires are potentially market moving information if you can put two and two together.
Think about mergers and acquisitions . That bit of information that LinkedIn is providing labeled “(company name) employees are most connected to (other company names)” could be highly revealing if the merger partners decide to friend each other on LinkedIn before they announce their deal.
I know, this is all just hypothetical, but I can tell you I learned some interesting things about companies involved in the investor relations business. Some of it I am sure the companies would rather not make public.
For instance, I’ve often wondered why a certain large company always ranks highly in a certain PR firm’s corporate website rankings. On LinkedIn, I learned that employees of the PR firm are “most connected” to the company. This has never been disclosed before.
At the end of the day, companies are just groups of people, and information about the comings and goings of these people can be extremely valuable.
Little less than one year ago, none of this information was available to researchers, journalists or investors. We have entered a period of dramatic innovation and unprecedented online participation.
What’s amazing to me is that companies don’t seem too perturbed about giving away their secrets.
Want to research a company on LinkedIn? Go to this Google search results page and change “company name” in the search box.