What is LinkedIn Now?

Last week I wrote a post on the value of a LinkedIn share. The tracking i completed through Visibli led me to rank the value of a share in the channel as 6 x the value of comparative channels. This is mostly due to the greater relevance of LinkedIn networks, which is the most valuable feature of the network in my opinion. I’ve been spending a lot of time investigating the features, and how users are using the channel in order to get a clear view of just what LinkedIn is becoming.

I blogged a while ago that LinkedIn was not really a social site. It was one of my most popular posts in terms of reads. I’m seeing this becoming increasingly true, with less interaction, comments etc, and more people accessing the network and its features externally via e-mail etc. Where I see LinkedIn now is as the professional reference site for people. When you come across anyone new, we are increasingly turning to LinkedIn ahead of Google to check who they are. On my desktop I do it whilst I’m on the phone, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before we will be able to see the headline profiles of people who call us or connect with us on mobile devices so that we can see who and what they are instantly.

Equally, I’m seeing LinkedIn data getting integrated in to other applications as the point of reference. Tools like Salescrunch, which is built for running on-line sales meetings or webinars for groups of up to 40, and Cardcrunch (now owned by LinkedIn) which allows you to scan business cards of people you meet to send out invites,both use profiles to give reference to people’s profiles as you interact with them. I also revisited the chrome application store to view the apps that integrate in a similar way, working via the toolbar.

The search on LinkedIn extension enables you to find company profiles by highlighting any text, and the profile appears in a pop up without leaving the page you are on. You can review a resume/CV and take a look at the listed employers without needing to complete a separate search. Although this covers only company pages at the moment, there are plans to add people profiles very soon. 

Whoworks.At is a great extension or app for recruiters and anyone in a sales or research company. Once you’ve added the extension, you can see who you are connected with on LinkedIn on any website. It’s a great way for quick sourcing or reference in any conversation.

LinkedIn for Chrome lets you view all the updates from your network without logging in to the channel. You can add comments, updates, likes, share via twitter, see profiles and post in to your groups from your toolbar.

Share On LinkedIn enables you to share any content with your network from your toolbar. See any interesting content and you can choose to share it with everyone via updates, with individuals via messages and with groups.

I’ve listed 4 extensions that I use, but there are plenty of others either available or in development. The common trends are that new apps work with Linkedin data and profiles without the need to log in to the channel. The common denominator is that they all enable users to access and interact with the channel as the professional reference point enabling interaction, sharing and review outside of the channel. Central to this is the quality of personal and company profiles and network connections. Each of these applications are controlled by LinkedIn’s strict terms that determines how the data can be used. That means no scraping or storing, with access in to the data coming at the point of inquiry. LinkedIn enforces this rigorously, which means all apps need to follow this, and having a detailed profile is not an option, it’s a necessity. This strict control and enforcement means that access to the API is essential for any recruitment product, and that LinkedIn can determine just how users data gets used. this gives them control over developers, and protects the integrity of the channel. The tough stance is starting to make a lot of sense.

Increasingly LinkedIn profiles are the reference point for sign ups. job applications etc. This will only be multiplied by the increased use of mobile, where form filling is cumbersome and awkward. All of this points towards the channels purpose as THE professional reference point for companies and individuals.

The other area I see LinkedIn focusing is as a specialist source for news and content. The real benefit of LinkedIn networks is the relevance of connections. Looking at my own network, I’m connected with just under 3,500 people. Looking through the connections, 89% have direct relevance to what I do. My network gives me an extended reach of over 16,500,000 people. If you consider the relevance of my network, if the same ratio applies then it’s easy to see how far relevant content can reach.

When I published the sharing post i got an e-mail from Daniel Roth, who is the Executive Editor at LinkedIn, giving me more detail on what they are doing to encourage sharing of news and content. In March LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Today, which was added to increase the exposure and reach of shared content. The analytics behind what gets featured comes from the LinkedIn share button, called InShare, which you can embed in any web place. Each share scores points, and trending storys get featured on LinkedIn Today and the home page of LinkedIn under trending storys.

You can view LinkedIn Today by all news, sector news or individual publishers. On sign-up, users get a choice to follow industries. Theres currently 48 sectors to choose between. Following is by simple tick. You can also choose from an A-Z list of publishers (which includes blogs.) To get on the list of publishers you need to include the LinkedIn button on the sharing options and apply directly to LinkedIn Today for a publisher page. I think that this could be a great source for new, targeted readers in sector. Users can sign up to receive e-mail updates on the trending storys with choice over intervals. Featured content is selected ranked by shares from a wide range of sources. It will also help to achieve this by sharing appropriate posts in to groups. You can do this from updates or the InShare button. Don’t share every post or it will be considered spam, and include an introductory discussion and respond to comments. Groups will multiply your shares and your points. Monitor which groups share which content, so that you can rotate posts according to their topic. It takes a bit longer but it keeps you as a friend rather than foe.

Recently, LinkedIn has been added to the WordPress share features, so there is no need to add any complicated code or embed it in the programs.  This used to be only available in self-hosted .Org blogs. To add the InShare  button go to the settings feature from your dashboard, then the sharing setting, The first section enables you to link your Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Messenger and most importantly LinkedIn. Every time you publish a post, it is added to updates. Right now, you need to update manually if you want to add an image (which increases click-throughs), and some introductory text. I’m sure this will change in the near future, and activating it means you never forget. The other advice I would give is to disable automatic sharing to Twitter, and tweeting direct from your LinkedIn update. My reasoning behind this is that if you share from a LinkedIn update, each retweet counts as a LinkedIn share and is added to your score. Combining Twitter RT’s with LinkedIn shares give you a much greater chance of getting featured as a trending post by combining the channels.

The next section is the sharing buttons that you can add to each post. These now include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, as well as channels like Digg, Stumbleupon, E-mail, Reddit etc. You choose which buttons to feature, and which ones to put behind the share button. You can choose the style of button, and what text you want to add. I have put the LinkedIn button first because I believe that this will lead to the most shares in LinkedIn, which is most likely to be relevant and will earn you points. Choose to feature your share buttons on all pages, posts, archive and other media.

The last bit is the tough bit, you need to create content worthy of sharing. It looks to me that LinkedIn are doing all they can to develop focused content sharing in to targeted networks. I think LinkedIn Today will become an important feature for achieving this, and should form an important part in your content strategy. Enable sharing by adding all the buttons, apply to be a publisher and produce content for this audience.

That brings you up to date on my thinking on where LinkedIn is going as a channel, and how you can get the most out of it. The functions of where LinkedIn should feature in your thinking are:

1) As THE professional reference point for people and companies, accessed in the channel and through third-party applications and extensions.

2) As the sourcing channel by search.

3) For building a targeted network by connections. New applications like Salescrunch and Cardmunch encourage adding connections from other activities. The more targeted the network, the better the share.

4) For sharing, promoting and consuming targeted content with a specific audience.

This is my thoughts on what LinkedIn has become. Less about engagement, and more about reference and targeted distribution. I think we are beginning to get a clear definition of what LinkedIn is as a channel and where it should fit in to our thinking. What is clear, is that it really isn’t a job board.



LinkedIn Shares

LinkedIn Share Buttons

LinkedIn Today FAQ



Chrome Extensions

WordPress Add Share buttons

11 comments on “What is LinkedIn Now?

  1. Thanks Bill for an interesting and informative post. I’ve followed the “is LinkedIn a social site?” debate for a while and I have to say I find it a completely pointless conversation.

    Essentially I find people tend to generalize and categorize sites based on their own personal use and a view of the world as they see it through their own network of contacts.

    They key things to remember about massive networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is that people use them in different ways. Some what is a flat directory to one group could be a vibrant conversation network to another. I think recruiters should stop wasting time debating about what they think LinkedIn is and learn more about how their particular target audience use it. Generalizing when dealing with networks of these size is only likely to lead you in the wrong directly.

    A couple of other thoughts:

    I don’t get why you think sharing isn’t engagement. There are more people who like to consume content than create or comment on it (he says generalizing!) so surely sharing and liking is engagement for a large number of people.

    LinkedIn isn’t a job board as you point out but it is worth noting that LinkedIn contains its own job board as part of its functionality. In my opinion that job board is one of the best out there.

    Matt Alder

    • Thanks for your comments Matt,
      On reflection, I think you are right to question whether sharing is in fact engagement. It would have been more accurate to look at comments and conversation as a separate issue. I agree with you that all companies should take their own approach to each channel individually according to objective and need. At the same time, I think it is useful to have opinions and experiences shared publicly, as this provokes discussion, understanding and helps others to form their own opinions. In my posts I share my thoughts and experiences, and invite others to comment, as you do with your own posts. This post is my take on how the channel is evolving, I would always advocate test practice to find out what works best for you. In my view, sharing your own experiences and thoughts is a healthy practice.
      BTW: Isn’t it a generalisation to say “recruiters should stop?”

    • I hate to bandwagon but I broadly agree with Matt here. The crux of using social networks is not what you believe they are and what you believe people do on them, it is actually taking the time to understand the audience and what they do with the platform.

      I’m not really into the groups and sharing on Linkedin, but I do completely recognise that many of our potential candidates do engage with these elements of Linkedin and love them. As someone who works with teams in our business to help them identify appropriate social networks and strategies for using them I have to be able to offer them the best advice on how to interact with that part of Linkedin (or other social media) despite the fact I don’t personally use it as a social platform myself. I’m never going to tell people not to use Facebook just because personally I have no time for it anymore, I know the value others place on it because I do my due diligence much as we would on Orkut, Hyves, Hi5 or any other network.

      Re sharing being engagement, yes, it can be but it depends on what you classify as engagement, I’ve heard some great things from much bigger brains than mine over at the IAB about the nature of engagement and I think, personally, we are a long way behind in understanding engagement in the rec industry but I’m not going to launch into that on Bill’s blog!

      Linkedin as a job board, personally i don’t see it as one but again, yes Matt, it does contain a great one and that’s something they ‘could’ grow. However, when you look at Talent Pipeline etc and you talk to the guys at Linkedin in detail about their products I’d say that’s not their core focus and never will be, they have their eyes firmly on other potentially more traditional HR functions / services in my book. However, the backbone, as I see it, is around it being a social network and being about keeping users engaged either by wanting the social cache of updating their profile, posting articles or being involved in a career relevant groups and getting other people to see what they have done or by going there as a professional news resource, all of that being provided to a paying inner circle of recruiters who get to plunder that social engagement.

      • Matt,
        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think we all agree that how you use each channel should be strongly influenced by your target audience. My concern is that much of the training, blogging, books etc that cover LinkedIn reflect the channel as it was, rather than the channel as it is. What I am seeing is that less people are visiting the channel, and more are using it as a reference point or through third party applications. I agree with you that the developments are more likely to be based around HR products, rather than recruiting/advertising based, as well as the content sharing elements. Ultimately, it will be the users who decide how they use a channel and what it will become. It all makes for interesting discussion.

  2. Indeed, as logn as their design is user centric and not driven by assumption then they have something compelling that will stand the test of time. If they go down the Facebook route and try to change the UI and UE too much then the value drops as does the engagement and therefore the value.

  3. I think Matt has a made a lot of valid points. From the recruitment perspective the first place we look is Linkedin – which is not a surprising statement by any stretch. What concerns me is that Linkedin IS the first place we look and if the user experience is diminished and the network starts to stagnate or implode we would lose days or weeks trying to find people through older channels. I’m hopeful that guys in charge are able to manage the experience so that I do not have to resort back to emptying hotel business card boxes, leafing through tattered old visitor books or heaven forbid, phoning gatekeepers 😎

  4. Hi Bill! Comprehensive post! I’ll wade in and say that, irrespective of whether we call it a social network/media (which i dont think it is but that doesn’t really matter as Matt points out) it has ALWAYS been a professional reference site. That was its original purpose, way before social.

    The other thing that concerns me is the way marketing/promotion soon becomes the all consuming aspect of these channels (If you lump them all in as social media). So all of a sudden, instead of simply networking and building relationships, we are now all falling all over ourselves to post from here, share from there, make sure you do it x times blah blah.
    For me this is still the application of web 1.0 (or even before that) marketing tactics, only in this case applied at the individual level.

    In my opinion, and its only mine, this just goes to fuel the whole Klout mentality madness.

    • Gareth,
      I can’t agree with you that this is marketing 1.0, in the same way as I;m not sure just hanging around and hoping to meet the right people is the right approach. I think recruiters are right to try and reach candidates in their target market, not hope they come along. You should read Jason and Jo (talent anarchy) book Social Gravity. It’s about intentional relationship building. All the good stuff on working on the relationships, contributing where you can, giving openly etc, but using the tools at your disposal to reach people who would be good to have a relationship with. Not pitching and selling, but working on reach and relationship.

  5. Excellent article Bill and there is a lot of really useful information here.
    At the risk of repeating what has already been said, my thoughts are that whilst this is an interesting piece, the debate about what a channel is or is not is somewhat pointless! All that really matters is how your target community are using LinkedIn and in my experience, this is highly variable.
    I work with companies and individuals across a broad spectrum of industries and its clear to me that LinkedIn is used very differently by a diverse range of communities.

    If we are being generic then I would say that the most common use of LinkedIn is still within groups and this is primarily done online or to a lesser extent via mobile. Groups have become discussion forums and therefore very useful engagement tools. There are nearly 1.5 million groups now and whilst the vast majority of them are used and run poorly, there are still thousands of groups that are proving to be a highly valuable resource and community to their members .
    LinkedIn had 112 million unique visitors (only 5% via mobile) last month which is about 70% of users which suggests that your theory about users accessing LinkedIn externally via email is somewhat inaccurate.

    I haven’t found many users that read LinkedIn Today articles very much, I think people are generally very set in the way they access news and information, maybe this will change but at the moment most people tell me that they largely ignore articles. Information overload is real issue, just take a look at your home page and you will see what I mean. Using LinkedIn as a distribution channel in isolation is unlikely to get anyones attention, this is the same as posting endless jobs (manually or by dreaded automatic feeds via Twitter, Bullhorn etc). It just becomes ‘noise’ and is largely ignored.
    This is why LinkedIn should be an engagement channel. The way I see it is that you earn the right to broadcast (article shares, jobs, blogs etc) by taking the time to engage with your connections and other LinkedIn users. Yesterday I read an excellent blog post from someone I share a group with. I have never met her and I can’t claim to know her but we have ‘engaged’ in discussions in our shared group and I have formed a positive opinion of her so when she posts her blog in LinkedIn as a status update I notice it, read it and share it! Without the engagement though the post (share) would have just been part of the noise that passes my eyes all day every day!
    I agree that a targeted network makes a share more effective but just having a targeted network alone is not good enough. Thats like going to a networking event where the room is full of highly relevant people and sitting in the corner, not speaking to anyone and leaving some brochures on a table in the hope that someone might read them (sharing)!
    Broadcasting or sharing is the online equivalent of speaking ‘at’ people rather than speaking ‘with’ them unless you ‘share’ in an engaging way.
    If LinkedIn is just a channel for distributing information then its no better than a job board but as you rightly say, LinkedIn is so much more than a job board and in my opinion its also so much more than a broadcasting channel.
    LinkedIn is a social network so my advice is get social and start engaging!

    • Mark,
      You might want to have a look at the data for how often people log in to the channel directly and how long they spend there each day,week,month, and make a comparison. There are some excellent groups, but from what I’m seeing on the ones I have been tracking over the last 6 months is that comments and what you might term “discussion” is down about 65%. My view is that this is because it is getting easier and easier to post in to groups without going in to the channel, and this includes commenting by e-mail to an e-mail without logging in. I’m seeing chrome extensions, apps and apps from LinkedIn that positively encourage me to do that. I’m also seeing more users of the profile for things like sign ins, applications and providing data for other purposes. This doesn’t mean I think groups are dead or over or anything like that. I know that some people derive a massive benefit from running groups, and from being members. You will get out what you put in as with any channel. That will never change, but I am seeing big changes in the way the majority are using the channel, and the biggest value I get is from sharing with the targeted audience I have built over the last 3 years. LinkedIn remains the biggest referral source to my blog and other content, well ahead of other channels, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. For the record, I think that use of ANY channel is going to be individual according to preference and results. This is how I, and my clients are getting the most from the channel and I wanted to share that. Bill

  6. Very interesting article and some useful extensions for Chrome reviewed. I typically stick with IE for business and use Chrome for social browsing but can see the benefit of these extensions and have to wonder why MS have slipped behind in this respect.

    I do however firmly believe that LinkedIn is nothing but a glorified Job Board though. The definition of a Job Board being an advertising medium and a CV database. For me it is most definitely not a “social media” site, that term is over used, “business media” yes, “information distribution” yes, “business networking” yes and as a reference site it works well. But surely at the core of their offering they are creating a massive online CV library and at every turn encouraging people to upload their working history. LinkedIn is at the heart of just about every social recruiting strategy and this power I believe will be its downfall unless it comes out the closet and declares that it is nothing more than a Job Board in disguise. It may be the next generation of job board but I think eventually people will shy away from it, after all not everyone wants to put their details on Monster!


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