(This post originally appeared on Inc.)
LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned platform that caters to the professional and business world has, since its inception, been focused on helping its users create networking opportunities and relationships through connections, communications, groups and forums. All of this, of course, being done online. But LinkedIn is now expanding its offerings…by going offline.
Last week the company announced that it is launching a new feature called Events. It’s targeted at people and companies who still like to do in-person affairs in the actual real, physical world.
“I think there is a massive whitespace for events today,” Ajay Datta, the head of product for LinkedIn India (where the app was developed) told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. “People don’t have a single place to organize [work-related] offline meetups specific to an industry or a neighborhood. People want to find other people.”
Why is a service that has traditionally focused on online networking now dipping its toes into the offline world? It’s because there’s overlap….and opportunity.
Despite all the ways we talk to each other online, the fact is that people still like to get together with other people at least once in a blue moon. It’s a human thing, you know? There are hundreds of conferences, conventions, business luncheons, networking groups, meetups and other local gatherings going on each day. Ask any professional and they’ll tell you that they attend one of these at least once or twice year. Why? Because face-to-face events create leads, solidify relationships and – according to reports like this one – provide a significant return on investment for most business, big and small.
Which is why, as the owner of a company that does in-person events for our clients monthly, I view LinkedIn’s new Events feature to be a no-brainer. In fact, it’s something they should’ve done a while ago.
The event management software business – which includes popular brands such as Meetup and Eventbrite, is growing at about a 15 percent rate every year and is expected to be as large as $11.4 billion by 2024. Should these companies be worried? In the short term, no. But in the long term? Absolutely.
That’s because currently LinkedIn’s service – while free – is very limited. It only allows its users to invite their first-person connections and doesn’t include the kinds of advanced marketing and management capabilities that the other big-name brands have like being able to find venues, integrate other services, accept payments and manage attendees. But, as Lunden points out, “if this starts to see traction – and I suspect that it will – you could imagine how LinkedIn might start to add on all of the above, and more.”
She’s absolutely right. Just because LinkedIn has traditionally been an online community doesn’t mean it can’t facilitate offline events. For now, I’ll use it to supplement both Meetup and Eventbrite, which my company also uses to attract attendees. But as LinkedIn inevitably adds features I’ll likely be using it much more.