LinkedIn is a website that was created for business people to connect with each other. It all started in late 2002 by a man named Reid Hoffman who used to work at PayPal. Before that, he had made another website called Socialnet (online dating platform that connected people on the basis of common interests), but it didn't work out. LinkedIn was his second try at making a website for people to network.
Desiring to build a business-oriented network, Hoffman eventually launched LinkedIn in 2003, beginning with a small team of 13 individuals and inviting 112 more to join the platform. Despite its beginnings as a small start-up with just 13 members, LinkedIn's growth was driven by its innovative and effective growth strategies and customer acquisition tactics. Their initial focus was on IT professionals in Silicon Valley, where high-profile individuals played a key role in promoting the new social network for professional connections.
By the end of its first year, LinkedIn had only 200-250 users, all of whom were connected through personal networks established by Hoffman and his team, who continuously added new features to the platform. This changed when LinkedIn shifted its focus to small businesses, introducing features like group creation and contact uploading, which facilitated networking and led to a significant increase in user numbers by the end of 2004.
LinkedIn's growth was further fueled by user acquisition tactics like aggressive contact importing and email invitations, facilitated by tools like an Outlook plugin, and the platform's two seminal growth hacking features: SEO for profiles and the recommendation system. The former made popular profiles more visible in Google searches, while the latter leveraged professional experiences to create a cycle of invitations. The "People you may know" feature, for instance, suggested connections based on mutual backgrounds such as past work locations.
It's also worth noting that LinkedIn's aggressive contact importing, including spamming users' email contacts, resulted in a lawsuit.