This month’s Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column: What’s new on LinkedIn?

Every month, I write a column about social media for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. This month, I’m sharing a round-up of some of the most significant changes introduced by LinkedIn in recent months.

What’s new on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has long been considered somewhat drab and gray in the otherwise colorful world of social media. During the past couple of years, however, LinkedIn has been shaking things up, innovating and adding features at an impressive rate. The changes are the result of several factors, including LinkedIn’s status as a publicly traded company and the rapid growth of its membership, which surpassed 200 million earlier this year. Here’s a look at what’s new:

A revamped homepage design. The LinkedIn homepage is more visually appealing. A news module called LinkedIn Today is at the center, and notifications of new messages and activity relevant to user profiles have been added as well. In addition, the homepage menu is now “locked” at the top of the screen so it remains visible even as you scroll down the page. The result is that it’s easier — and therefore more likely — that users will navigate to other parts of LinkedIn before leaving the site.

Enhanced company pages. Company pages, which allow businesses to have a presence on LinkedIn apart from their employees’ profiles, have been revamped substantially. Companies can post status updates, add a large profile image and develop specific pages for individual products and services. The result is an increased opportunity for businesses to promote themselves and build relationships with LinkedIn users directly.

Endorsements. Endorsements are perhaps the most controversial new feature on LinkedIn. Endorsements allow LinkedIn users to recognize each other for specific job skills and attributes. One reason endorsements have generated so much conversation is that they compete somewhat with a long-standing and generally well-regarded LinkedIn feature called “recommendations.” A common complaint is that where recommendations require some thought, endorsements can be made with little effort and with no context provided for why the endorsement was given. Endorsements are likely here to stay, however, because they are quantifiable, meaning that LinkedIn can glean actionable data from them.

Several well respected "influencers" are now sharing original content on LinkedIn.

Several well respected “influencers” are now sharing original content on LinkedIn.

Original content from “influencers.” LinkedIn is making significant inroads into becoming a content portal. One example is the addition of original content written by influencers like President Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Ariana Huffington and Tony Robbins. When LinkedIn users “follow” these influencers, they get access to content created exclusively for LinkedIn that focuses on the influencers’ industries or areas of expertise.

Tagging in status updates. Facebook and Twitter users have grown accustomed to “tagging” their connections in status updates, which in effect includes them in the conversation. This feature now is available on LinkedIn as well, filling a void that made LinkedIn appear to be a little behind the times.

Redesigned user profiles. If you haven’t seen the new LinkedIn user profile design, you’ll be in for a surprise. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has described the new profile as “one of the biggest changes to a LinkedIn pillar product in the company’s history,” and he’s not exaggerating. User photos are significantly larger. An activity module displays the most recent actions taken by the user on LinkedIn, which makes the profile more dynamic and current. The background section now includes logos next to the companies listed in the “experience” section, and users can add media — such as presentations, videos, or white papers — to their profiles.

In addition, users see a visual representation of where their connections, groups, education, work history, and skills and expertise intersect, and have the ability to see how their connections are distributed by employer, industry and location.

Finally, LinkedIn has added new modules like patents, publications, and volunteering and causes to allow users to provide depth in areas important to them. Altogether, it’s a much more robust opportunity to tell your story as a professional.

As you navigate through the new LinkedIn, it’s worth remembering the motivation behind these changes. LinkedIn is hoping you’ll spend more time on the site so it can increase advertising revenue and sell more premium memberships. As a result, you should expect even more changes in the future as LinkedIn learns what keeps us engaged — and what doesn’t.

If you’d like to learn more about these changes, join me for “Introducing the New LinkedIn” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 21 at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, located at 6316 Mutual Drive in Fort Wayne. Registration is required, with all proceeds benefitting Cancer Services. To sign up, visit http://csnism2013-2-eorg.eventbrite.com or email me at ajjuliano@gmail.com.

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