Professionals frequently ask me if they should invest in the LinkedIn premium account or stay with the free version. Let me set the record straight: Premium is TOTALLY worth it…sometimes. I tried it, and it was awesome! It saved time on research, helped with lead generation and connected me with industry leaders. It almost gave me too much information. However, I found myself spending substantially more LinkedIn screen time than I ever had. LinkedIn Premium or Free? It depends.

Microsoft recently purchased LinkedIn and everything seemed to change. Alumni search, Tagging and saved searches were included at no cost to the user. At first glance the free version seemed useless, but the investment level depends on the need. Casual LinkedIn users can stick with free version, but as American Express used to say: membership has it’s privileges. Here are a few:

  • InMail – These LinkedIn emails are great for introductions to prospects and potential connections. Unconnected users can still exchange messages and useful information. I’ve used these to connect to potential Technology Ambassadors across the country. Unfortunately, I found that most people don’t respond to these emails and may view them as SPAM. It’s better to get connected and send messages the traditional way. LinkedIn Premium or Free: Free
  • Search – Searching for prospects, leads and influencers is a must on LinkedIn, and reaching the monthly limit is frustrating. Unlimited search is great. This tool allows users to find professional with whom they need to connect. Subsequently they can seek introductions from people they have in common. LinkedIn Premium or Free: Premium (especially for HR and sales)
  • Profile – Who’s looking at your profile? Premium allows users to know who watching them. This feature is especially useful when users are job hunting. I use it to find out who’s looking at my profile after presenting to large groups or publishing an article. The biggest challenge is people who browse “incognito” and set their privacy to anonymous. LinkedIn Free or Premium: Free

Improving Your Personal Brand with LinkedIn

  • News – The Sales Navigator feature is a MUST for professionals responsible for lead generation. I told LinkedIn the industries and companies I work with (e.g. – top clients), and I received articles and information relevant to them. I was also notified of job changes, company growth and potential leads. This features helps professional target decision makers in large organizations. LinkedIn Free or Premium: Premium
  • Get a Job – While looking for a job, you must get LinkedIn Premium. It shows how you compare to the competition. Analytics also show how users stack up against current company employees based on their LinkedIn profile. Get ideas and insights on landing your dream job in an exclusive group of LinkedIn experts. LinkedIn Free or Premium: Premium (if you want a job)

I loved LinkedIn Premium (Sales Navigator), but the price tag of almost $80 / month (billed annually) was too steep for me. All of the Premium packages are wonderful if you have a specific use case (e.g. – sales, human resources, job hunting). If you are a casual user just following your co-workers, save your money for a larger drink at Starbucks. You’ll get more from the caffeine.

Scientifically Speaking, of course…