It’s hard to believe I’ve had a profile and participated in the professional social network site LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com ) for nearly 5 years now (since Jan. 21, 2004, according to my account profile). I don’t consider myself real cutting edge when it comes to the online social scene, but LinkedIn has always promised a professional place to hang my online hat, with the potential for searching for people at companies and maybe garnering some job prospects. I admit to using it only sporadically over the years. But this year, the number of LinkedIn invitations coming to my inbox has increased dramatically. The traction is really there.
The company claims to be the world’s largest professional network with more than 31 million members and boasting strong growth—up from 18 million at the start of the year. And, not surprisingly, reports indicate that the current economic crisis has caused a spike in use of the professional networking sites for job searches—not just LinkedIn but also Plaxo, XING (Germany-based), Viadeo (Paris-based), and others. During times of instability, professional networking—online and offline—is a necessity. (Even LinkedIn recently announced it was cutting 10% of its work force—calling it a preemptive move—despite raising $22.7 million in venture capital in October.)
While Facebook attracts a lot of attention and users—and I’m also participating there with some professional groups and conferences—it’s more about being fun, trendy, and sociable. LinkedIn is still more of a business tool (no photos except a professional headshot)—and it’s becoming increasingly useful, IMHO, with all its recent improvements and enhanced services. The company has had a continuous string of important announcements of late.
My April 3, 2008, NewsLink Spotlight article covered the then-new and very useful Company Profile feature (www.linkedin.com/companies) on LinkedIn (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=41442). BusinessWeek.com and Capital IQ, a unit of Standard & Poors, provide the company data. Since then, LinkedIn has added the capability for users to create profiles for their companies (see http://blog.linkedin.com/2008/11/17/creating-company-profiles-on-linkedin).
In late October, the company started a trial of its new search platform, currently released to a small percentage of LinkedIn users. In addition, a certain percentage of the remaining users can explore the new search experience by simply clicking on the Try LinkedIn’s new People Search link at the top of search results pages. It lets users refine search results by categories such as company, school, and language.
Over several months, the following features will be phased in for all users:
- Unified search results
- More powerful relevance algorithm (leverages both the professional graph and the rich profile data)
- Redesigned search results page—with search refinements, sort and view options, and more "actionable"
- New "In Common" field in results
- Saved searches
- Spellchecker for names and soon for keywords
- Type-ahead recommendations for connections
LinkedIn also announced a new Events feature. Members receive recommendations for events that match their profile. Events can be searched for by industry, date, and location (http://blog.linkedin.com/2008/11/07/announcing-linkedin-events).
In November, the company announced new LinkedIn Applications that work as widgets on the site. Here’s a summary of what is currently offered and how they can be helpful to users.
Work collaboratively with your network
- Box.net on LinkedIn: Share files and collaborate with your network.
- Huddle Workspaces on LinkedIn: Private workspaces to collaborate with your network on projects.
Share information and keep up-to-date with your network
- Amazon on LinkedIn: Discover what your network is reading.
- TripIt on LinkedIn: See where your network is traveling.
- SixApart on LinkedIn: Stay up-to-date with your network’s latest blog posts.
Present yourself and your work in new ways
- Google Docs on LinkedIn: Embed a presentation on your profile.
- SlideShare on LinkedIn: Share, view and comment on presentations from your network.
- WordPress on LinkedIn: Promote your blog and latest posts.
Gain key insights that will make you more effective
- Company Buzz by LinkedIn: See what people are saying about your company.
While standard LinkedIn accounts are free, the company earns revenue through advertising, premium subscriptions, corporate solutions, job listings, and the newly announced LinkedIn Surveys. The new service is aimed at market researchers and investors wanting to solicit market intelligence. For a fee, LinkedIn will pull together a panel of people who will fill out a survey.
LinkedIn has also been very savvy about making connections with other web services and information providers. Here’s a short list of some of the key integrations.
- Microsoft’s newly announced Windows Live services, which include updated experiences for photo sharing, email, instant messaging, also integrate with multiple third-party sites, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr, etc.
- OneSource Global Business Browser and Express integrates with LinkedIn so users can see all their connections within three degrees of separation.
- LexisNexis features LinkedIn contacts on martindale.com. Abstracts and links to Martindale-Hubbell articles and content are distributed within the LinkedIn network.
- LinkedIn maintains distribution and integration agreements with news providers CNBC and NYTimes.com.
LinkedIn, founded in 2003, is based in Mountain View, Calif., and is still privately held. For an interesting interview with its CEO Dan Nye, see the SFGate article, "LinkedIn CEO Touts Growth of Network" (www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/22/BUAI141O97.DTL). Here’s his description of the service’s demographics.
The average age is 41 years old. The average household income is $109,000; 76 percent of them have a college degree or a graduate degree. It’s pretty evenly split between men and women, slightly more men. Forty-eight percent are outside the United States. We’re the largest network in Western Europe, and we're very strong in all English-speaking countries, as well as countries that have lots of commerce with the English-speaking world. We just launched a Spanish version of our site as well. [A French version is also now available. —Ed.]
We’re growing really fast with young people right now who are seeing the importance of participating in this professional network and understanding how it’s different from a social network.
We’re seeing great growth from small-business owners because they’re seeing how they can attract clients and reference-check vendors and candidates and things like that. And we’re also seeing tremendous growth inside of corporations and certainly with executives. Education is a very fast-growing market for us right now.
Finally, if you wonder how LinkedIn might be of use to you, check out one of these articles.