LinkedIn Looking to Make Acquisitions, Still Copying Twitter and Facebook

LinkedIn, the business-oriented social network, is planning acquisitions to help it take advantage of growth in the mobile market, CEO Jeff Weiner told Bloomberg News, and has also had expressions of interest from bankers who want to finance the company or take it public. The company also plans to boost its staffing levels by 50 percent by the end of the year — which would give it close to 900 employees — in order to handle growth in Brazil, India and China. Meanwhile, the network continues to add new social features that mimic those offered by Twitter and Facebook.

Although LinkedIn did two rounds of financing in 2008, with $78-million coming from venture capital groups that included Bain Capital, Sequoia and Greylock, Weiner told Bloomberg that the company has not needed to use any of that money. “We haven’t touched it,” he said. “We don’t need the capital.” It wasn’t clear from the CEO’s comments whether the funds from those financing rounds would be used for the acquisition program, or whether LinkedIn would pay for the purchases from its operating budget.

The company has been adding features recently in an attempt to stay competitive with social-networking leaders Twitter and Facebook: it recently allowed users to integrate Twitter into their pages, added a Twitter-style “follow” function for users to track other LinkedIn members they want to stay in touch with, and today launched new features for LinkedIn Groups, including a Facebook-style “like” button for comments. Weiner told Bloomberg that while there was overlap between other social networks and LinkedIn, the company planned to “continue to focus on professionals exclusively.”

LinkedIn’s challenge is that it wants to bridge the gap between the social functionality that occurs on Twitter and Facebook and the more corporate approach of its network, but it’s not clear whether its user base — which recently crossed the 70 million mark — want those social features mixed in with the company’s traditional offerings.

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