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Could this be the surprise winner for social media stocks?

Earnings edge: 3 key items for LinkedIn

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter both reported quarterly results that topped analyst expectations this week, but both stocks sold off following their respective releases. Now, the last best hope for social media investors could be LinkedIn, which is slated to report second-quarter earnings on Thursday after the bell.

According to MKM Partners Managing Director Rob Sanderson, the social network for professionals, which currently has a larger market cap than Twitter, must hit three key metrics to be successful this quarter.

Sanderson initiated LinkedIn with a "buy" rating and $285 price target on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's earnings report.

In his initiation note, the analyst wrote that LinkedIn is a "unique and powerful asset that has been superbly managed to become an excellent business with open-ended potential for growth."

For that potential to be realized, Sanderson told CNBC's "Fast Money" he would first and foremost be looking for growth in the "Talent Solutions" business for the second quarter. That unit is comprised mainly of a staffing tool called "LinkedIn Recruiter," which Sanderson said was the company's flagship product. Sanderson said Wall Street was looking for $419 million in revenue from that segment for the quarter.

Next, Sanderson said he was looking for the number of corporate solutions customers to come in at around 36,500.

Lastly, Sanderson said the full year guidance would be key for LinkedIn. He pegged LinkedIn's net revenue number for 2015 at $2.922 billion.

In Tuesday's initiation note, Sanderson pointed out that LinkedIn is down 19 percent from highs reached earlier this year.

"We think fundamentals remain strong," he wrote. "We want to own the stock regardless of whether the (second quarter) report is a catalyst."

By CNBC's Michael Newberg