Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD), spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Betty Liu at the CommsConnect Summit in San Francisco this week. He spoke about lowering user age limits and the challenges LinkedIn faces with their expansion into China, and complying with Chinese law and censorship.

On the possibility of user backlash with regard to China, Weiner said: “Censorship is something that we would prefer not doing, obviously.  And to communicate to a member the fact that their profile will remain inaccessible as long as a certain word or phrase is on the profile is gut-wrenching, to be honest with you.  It’s not something anyone of us want to be doing. But at times, in order to do business there, it’s necessary to comply with the law.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: Do Not Prefer Chinese Censorship

When asked whether the improving job market might hinder LinkedIn’s continued growth, Weiner said: “No…when people are struggling to find work, they turn to a platform like LinkedIn because they recognize their network can help them find opportunities. The flip side is that when there are more jobs available, recruiters and hiring managers need to find the best possible person.  And that’s been one of our killer apps now for some time, which is this ability to do searches from what now amounts to over 300 million, 320 million members and find the perfect candidate.”

Weiner also commented on a new data initiative: “We have been talking increasingly about developing the world’s first economic graph…We’re talking about digitally mapping the global economy.  So a profile for every member of the global workforce, a profile for every company in the world and a digital representation for every job available anywhere in the world, a digital representation for every skill required to obtain those jobs, a profile for every university or higher educational organization that enables you to obtain those skills and then the ability for every individual, for every company and for every university to share their professionally relevant knowledge.”
Video for viewing and embedding:

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: Learned a lot by Expanding into China

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: Story of Linked is of Significant Growth

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on expanding LinkedIn’s operations into China the possibility of user backlash:

“Well, there are certainly people who feel strongly about supporting freedom of expression.  And we’re — we’re the same.  You know, we’re strong advocates for freedom of expression and we are very firm opponents of censorship.”

“The challenge, of course, is that if you want to do business in China, and we think there is an opportunity there to create jobs and create economic opportunity for a huge population.  It’s one of the largest economies in the world.  You know, China has stated an objective of migrating over 250 million people from rural areas and villages into urban areas and to create a thriving middle class.”

“And we think a platform like LinkedIn can help with that transition, can help create jobs and economic opportunities and can help connect people within China to opportunities in the economy outside of China. And increasingly, you see multinational companies within China who are starting to expand globally.  You see multinationals outside of China who are seeking to do business within China. So we think as a platform, we’re in a position where we can create a lot of value for those members and those customers.”

“To do so means complying with Chinese law.  And at times, that means doing things that we’re not comfortable with and where we’ve had to compromise on some of our values.  And we think that the value that can be created in China is worth doing business there.”

“And so we’re going to continue to be very thoughtful about our approach there and, you know, we gave a lot thought to this.  We certainly didn’t go in without proactively thinking through what kind of challenges we would face there.  And we made the decision that we wanted to enter China, you know, well over 18 months ago.”

“The challenge was thinking about how we were going to do it and which values we would be open to compromising by virtue of doing business there and which we would not, you know, where we would draw very firm lines.”

“Censorship is something that we would prefer not doing, obviously.  And to communicate to a member the fact that their profile will remain inaccessible as long as a certain word or — or phrase is on the profile is gut-wrenching, to be honest with you.  It’s — it’s not something anyone of us want to be doing. But at times, in order to do business there, it’s necessary to comply with the law.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on the big takeaway from opening operations in China:

“I think there — there’s multiple learnings. First of all, to this discussion of thinking proactively about first principles and values and — and where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not, you learn a lot about what matters to you as a company.  You learn — it brings the executives together in terms of their own values and principles and you want to make sure that you’re creating a space for people to be able to talk about what matters to them and — and what’s most important to them.”

“You also learn about the challenges and how to best position the company to be able to do business there and beyond thinking through some of the things that we were talking about, how you’re going to structure the business in China.”

“We have two partners in China, Chinese partners and investors.  It’s a joint venture.  You want to think through who’s going to be leading that effort and we’re very fortunate in terms of our president of LinkedIn in China, has a lot of experience with Western companies, has experience with Chinese companies, grew up in China and was educated in the West.  He’s an entrepreneur at heart, an engineer by training, built a sales-oriented company, very cross disciplinary in terms of his skill sets and experience.  And that helps tremendously.”

“And reporting structure.  So our head of China reports directly to me.  And I think that’s very important, because at times, you’re going to have to make decisions and you’re going to have to move quickly to keep up with such an entrepreneurial environment.  And if you look back historically at some of the companies that have stumbled or experienced challenges, I think in part, that’s come from potentially having your head of China report to a head of international that may or may not have reported to the CEO and navigating in and organization when you have to be leveraging so many different horizontal factions, I think that becomes very challenging.”

“I wanted to make sure that we could set that team up to be successful. So if our team in China needed to navigate, say, the global platform, or a functional area that they were dependent on that was not located or headquartered in China, I wanted to make sure that we would treat that with the right sense of urgency, with the right importance, with the right prioritization.  And that’s something I can obviously help with.”

“Most of those operations are sales and marketing oriented.  China will be one of the first cities where — Beijing would be one of the first cities, China would be one of the first countries where we’re going to be doing local development.  We also do local development in India out of our Bangalore office and our Delhi office as well.  But for the most part, we operate in 30 cities around the world and the majority of those, the vast majority are sales and marketing oriented.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on whether he expects China to become as big or an even bigger market than the U.S. for his business:

“So if you’re defining it through knowledge workers and our addressable opportunities, 144 million professionals and students, pre-professionals, in China.  That’s regular one in five of our addressable opportunity, when you expand that to include students.  And, you know, to realize our mission, to realize our vision, given the increasing importance of China to the global economy, it’s clearly an important part of what we’re trying to do.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on LinkedIn’s story:

“The story of LinkedIn over the last five or six years, I think, is one of significant growth not only in terms of our membership and our business, but in terms of the products and services that we’ve been bringing to market that are enabling our members and our customers to get value from the platform in the way we intended it.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on whether the improving job market might cause problems for LinkedIn’s continued growth:

“No, the benefit of being a platform that is helping people to find jobs is that when there are fewer jobs to go around, when people are struggling to find work, they turn to a platform like LinkedIn because they recognize their network can help them find opportunities.”

“The flip side is that when there are more jobs available, recruiters and hiring managers need to find the best possible person.  And that’s been one of our killer apps now for — for some time, which is this ability to do searches from what now amounts to over 300 million, 320 million members and find the perfect candidate.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on whether he defines LinkedIn as a content company or social media company:

“We’re a professional network, first and foremost.  And our professional network enables people to generate value by virtue of leveraging three primary assets. The first is professional identity.  And your ability to tell your story, your experiences, your skills and most importantly, your objectives, your ambitions, what you’re trying to accomplish.”

“The second is as a network specifically, and the way in which you build relationships and nurture those relationships over time to seize opportunity and create opportunities for others.”

“And the third is knowledge.  And this ability for people to make better decisions faster by virtue of staying informed and becoming more knowledgeable about their industry, their company, their colleagues, their connections, their prospects, etc.”

“Those are all enabling capabilities.  And all together, those enable people to be better at the jobs that they’re already in.  And as a network, that’s what we empower.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on the high growth part of LinkedIn’s business:

“Well, it’s interesting, when you talk about growth, there’s different ways to define growth on LinkedIn.  There’s our growth in terms of membership, our growth in terms of revenue, in terms of our bottom line.  There’s also growth in terms of the way in which members are using and engaging on LinkedIn.”

“And it’s — it’s funny, because you said content is not necessarily a growth engine for us.  And interestingly enough, content, in light of our professional publishing efforts as a platform has emerged as one of our fastest growing businesses.  If you’re looking at the number of unique users, if you’re looking at the number of page views being generated by virtue not only of posts that are being generated on LinkedIn through our publishing platform, but also third party publishers who are having their content shared through the feed on LinkedIn…”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on opening up LinkedIn to younger users:

“Younger members, starting with college students, is one of our fastest growing segments and demographics.  Below that, we’ve just now started to roll out products and services designed for people who aren’t yet in college. But we’re helping them select which college that they want to apply to and ultimately attend by virtue of starting to think about their career path.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on traditional ranking organizations being angered by LinkedIn’s new college rankings:

“Yes, I can imagine.  They’re not designed to replace any of the existing methodologies.  I think it complements them.  And this is really specific to outcomes information, which we have by virtue of our members telling us where they went to school, what they majored in, what their career paths look like and what they’re currently doing. So it’s a different way of thinking about it.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on critics who say LinkedIn’s college rankings are missing key pieces of data:

“I think we have a pretty statistically significant sample by virtue of the data that we’ve been able to aggregate.  And, you know, our outcomes information is not designed to replace or be a substitute for existing methodologies on the best schools, by virtue of a different lens.”

“This is designed simply so that people can see if you were to attend a specific university or college, where it might lead you.  And the beauty of it is it’s completely transparent.  When you see these rankings, you can click on the school and then you’re going to see the alumni of that school that has gone on to pursue a career in the area of interest for you.”

Jeff Weiner on where else LinkedIn might use the data it has available and what other products the company might consider:

“Well, as we think about the realization of our vision in creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, all three billion people. We have been talking increasingly about developing the world’s first economic graph.  And when we talk about an economic graph, we’re talking about digitally mapping the global economy.  So a profile for every member of the global workforce, a profile for every company in the world and a digital representation for every job available anywhere in the world, a digital representation for every skill required to obtain those jobs, a profile for every university or higher educational organization that enables you to obtain those skills and then the ability for every individual, for every company and for every university to share their professionally relevant knowledge.”