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Is LinkedIn the Anti-Facebook?

LinkedIn reports after the bell Thursday, and with the stock up 51 percent year-to-date, but down nearly 7 percent on Wednesday, investors are wondering if it will remain a rare success story in the volatile Internet space.

LinkedIn
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LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s performance since its IPO stands in stark contrast to Facebook’s: Its stock has more than doubled.

While Facebook leans on advertising and its payments business is flat, LinkedIn has three revenue streams: recruiting tools, premium subscriptions, and advertising. Facebook may be the fun socializing toy to LinkedIn’s buttoned up business tool, but being "boring" seems to be winning over investors.

Wall Street expects LinkedIn to report earnings-per-share of 15 cents, 54 percent higher than a year ago on 78 percent higher revenue of $216 million. Investors will also be watching for indication of user engagement — the growth in unique visitors.

Another key number is LinkedIn’s margins. We expect LinkedIn’s growth to slow — in the first quarter it had 101 percent revenue growth over the prior year. The question is when that growth will pick up again, and where that growth will come from.

We can also expect analysts to push for details on the impact of recent hackingand theft of user passwords and LinkedIn’s acquisition of SlideShare. And international may be in focus as LinkedIn builds up its overseas business with new offices in Brazil, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

We’ll also see how softness in Europe impacts revenue numbers. We’ll see what LinkedIn says about users shift from desktops to mobile devices, and whether it’s ramping mobile revenue to keep up with user growth, in contrast with Facebook, where mobile use is far outpacing mobile ads.

LinkedIn has dipped a bit on concerns about economic weakness and hiring hitting the company’s recruiting tools business. We’ll see whether companies are increasingly shifting their recruiting to these products from traditional Human Resources teams.

Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry, who has a ‘Buy’ on the stock, said the company’s recruiter products are “increasingly impacting the way companies are hiring; simplifying the process and creating cost savings.” He added that he expects the company to leverage all its information about its user base to create additional revenue streams.

JPMorgan’s Doug Anmuth expects strong user growth despite tough comparisons. He points to a redesigned Homepage and ‘LinkedIn Today’ as new tools keeping users coming back more often. Another new product drawing analyst attention is the company’s new ‘Sales Navigator.’

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
@JBoorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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