New LinkedIn head in Canada looking to continue momentum

LinkedIn Corp. has a new boss in Canada, the company announced June 16, as it celebrates its first year anniversary here. Brian Church, formerly LinkedIn’s Canadian director of hiring solutions, will now be the company’s country manager for Canada, and continuing the company’s current strategies is on his agenda.

“It has been a very successful year,” Church says. “[I’m] also very excited about the growth in the talent space that we have,” he says. LinkedIn now has about 30 employees in Canada and more than three million users here, a million more than it did before setting up shop here.

LinkedIn experienced major success with its initial public offering (IPO) in May, when the company’s value shot up quickly. While many analysts—and the general public– are questioning whether such high valuations on social networking sites will last, Church says “that’s something that the market predicts. We’re just excited to bring the value to the members,” he says.

Related story: How LinkedIn can help you reach your targeted audience

“My focus is on building the talent in the team,” he says. While he has no specific goals in terms of numbers for growing staff in Canada, he says the team will definitely grow this year. In fact, the company uses LinkedIn to hire internally, he says. “We’re a very heavy user of the product,” Church says.

LinkedIn’s main lines of businesses in Canada include member subscriptions, marketing solutions and hiring solutions, according to the company, and those priorities will remain under Church. Helping companies recruit the right people for themselves is an important focus for LinkedIn that will continue, according to Church. “Talent is a driver of innovation,” he says. The SMB market in Canada is huge for LinkedIn, he says. “We’re seeing growth in that area probably bigger than any other area,” he says.

“We’re seeing the smaller organizations taking advantage of the employees that they have within the organization to get the message out,” he says. LinkedIn recently launched a student jobs portal for placement searches and that focus on students will also continue. “It’s an exciting space for us,” Church says. Helping individuals with branding themselves is also a focus since employees become brand ambassadors for their businesses, he says.

“It’s almost replacing the resume,” he says. However, roughly 80 per cent of people on LinkedIn aren’t actively looking for a job, Church estimates, so professionals who are happy in their positions can still find value in LinkedIn through its other features.

Related story: Are you suffering from social media overload?

LinkedIn has also created strategic partnerships in Canada, with companies such as Waterloo, Ont.-based network company Sandvine. “They’ve been very successful at using our technology,” Church says. “Organizations like that are transforming how they’re doing some of their recruitment strategies,” he says, and so partnerships will remain a focus under his leadership.

“I think that the biggest think that LinkedIn in Canada has done has shown people that it’s not just an online rolodex,” says Erin Bury, community manager at Sprouter, a Toronto-based resource Web site for start-ups.

Sprouter itself actually began with more of a social networking focus with functionalities similar to Twitter. What they found was that their users were already on the big three – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Bury says.

Related story: Sprouter prunes Twitter-style messages, grows Q&A feature

“Trying to recreate a place where people congregate outside those is really difficult,” she says. “It’s really hard to integrate another tool into somebody’s already busy day,” she says. LinkedIn’s own Q and As are crowd sourced and any member can answer, while Sprouter has a pool of carefully-selected experts who give advice, according to Bury.

Sprouter is still a place for entrepreneurs to find out about each other, but contacting them and interacting is left up to sites like LinkedIn, so it’s not a direct competitor to the big social networking sites, she says.

Despite the various social networking tools out there, Church says he still sees the market in Canada as strong for his company. “It’s a very highly connected country,” he says. “Canadians are online more than most countries in the world. We have that tremendous benefit,” he says.

But users shouldn’t expect their LinkedIn sites to become any more like Facebook or other social sites under Church. “Our focus is on the professional market,” he says. “That is our focus and where we will continue.”

Harmeet Singh is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness. Follow her on Twitter, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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