Assessing recent LinkedIn announcements

LinkedIn training courses

Last week, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, stood in front of an audience of journalists and announced the latest batch of changes from the giant in professional social media networking.

He was accompanied by a number of senior LinkedIn staff and each took turns to tell the world of what they'd been working on recently, the new features their endeavours had produced and, more importantly, their vision of how LinkedIn members would be using the platform in future.

Much has been written about the enhanced Profile page that LinkedIn have released (if you can't see it yet, you soon will as deployment is now well under way).  However, the pre-amble to the feature announcements was as interesting as the feature content itself.

So, what does the recent announcement mean to you and how you'll be using LinkedIn?


175 million users

The first thing you should think about are some of the headline figures read out by Jeff Weiner.  He said that over 175 million people are now members of the social network. 

When you consider the professional foundation that lies beneath the LinkedIn membership, that's a big number.  They're never going to reach Facebook-like magic "Billion" numbers because their appeal is much more targeted - so 175 million is impressive.

However, the continued growth of this figure is a staggering 2 new members per second.  To put it another way, it's 3% per month!  Over 5 million new people joining ever single month.


LinkedIn Today blog entry from Richard Branson


We were surprised at this number.  Perhaps a relatively stagnant jobs market explains much of it, but Weiner was quick to acknowledge that they're well aware people used LinkedIn for reasons beyond job seeking (and indeed he acknowledged Sales and Marketing use).


Continued UK popularity

UK members can take note of the fact that out of the huge numbers involved the United Kingdom remains joint third in the list of countries using the platform - tied with a newcomer; Brazil.

There's a degree of irony in this in the week that it was also announced that Brazil had overtaken the UK as the worlds 6th largest economy. 

Brazil has long since been a collosal consumer of all things social media orientated and their continued attraction to LinkedIn should be of interest to anyone with South American market audiences.

The United States retains the number one slot for user volume as you'd expect, with India at number two.  If you were to look at penetration in countries as percentage of population though, you'll find the UK is almost certain to top the list. 

Its take-up in the UK is significant (whilst we acknowledge the UK are big consumers of all other social media channels, the workplace awareness of LinkedIn is what sets it aside).


LinkedIn Today

Weiner went on to say that they'd noticed more and more people were updating their Profiles on a regular basis.  Hence the Profile changes.  He clearly felt this indicated a change in use though and it has led, almost certainly, to the evolution of something he is clearly very proud of - LinkedIn Today.

In case you haven't seen it, LinkedIn Today is a type of news-feed or newspaper of all content that LinkedIn thinks you'll be interested in.  Take special note of what we've said there - not necessarily content you've told them you'll be interested in.  But what it thinks you'll be interested in.

LinkedIn is starting to make effective use of your data.  Not just your data, but the data of those with whom you connect, the Groups you're part of, the posts you make in them and the Updates you publish.  It is becoming far more intelligent than ever before.

Such is LinkedIn's enthusiasm for LinkedIn Today that they referred to it as the "De-facto standard trade magazine".  They think it'll become your number one source of news for your sector, vocation and, perhaps, associated interests.  There is clearly a lot of resource behind LinkedIn Today.

We can say that with confidence when we hear LinkedIn speak of the "luminaries" (business or life influencers) they've signed up to write for the platform.  In the UK, Richard Branson has published an article.  He's one of the 150 "luminaries" LinkedIn think you'll want to hear from.  Along with the others, he'll be writing articles that you'll be shown on LinkedIn Today.


LinkedIn want your content

They're also wanting you to join in - and post more Updates.  The more Updates you give them, the more recommendations you'll receive for content and the more useful your data is to them.  The figures behind Updates are startling.  They announced over 2 billion Updates were posted per week, but they want more.

This is absolutely key, there is a very apparent change in the platform wanting to be seen to be more proactive in the propagation of information it thinks you should see.  It is going to be publishing more.

That may well appeal to users that now participate in more than one million LinkedIn Groups.  This was another figure LinkedIn released.  With Groups ranging in size from 2 members to over a quarter of a million, Groups remain a substantial part of the LinkedIn offering.


Mobile accessibility

Accessing all this new content you're going to be shown is something LinkedIn are keen to make as easy as possible.  This is especially pertinent in light of the fact they revealed that mobile access to the site now accounts for 23% of all traffic and continues to grow at pace.  A year ago it accounted for a mere 10% of traffic.

All social media platforms have seen this migration but LinkedIn's figures are critical if they're to make the added-value experience as easy as possible for users. 

We found their attempt to tie the rise in mobile traffic in to their release of a new iPhone and iPad app somewhat weak.  We don't doubt they've helped growth, but as all platforms have seen rises in mobile traffic it'd be difficult to put the crown on the head of a new app in our opinion.


Widgets to the fore

Apart from consuming all their new content they'd also like you to make use of their Widgets.  That's items such as the "Apply with LinkedIn" button and "Share on LinkedIn" widget that can be deployed on websites.

We got the distinct impression there is a lot more to come in terms of Widgets, so it'll be interesting to see how far they think they can appeal and how easy integration will be. 

Company adoption of widgets will be important, but as LinkedIn claim there are over 2 million company pages on the site, we can't envisage that being too much of an issue.


Critical period - content consumption or turn off?

So, it'll be an interesting few months ahead for LinkedIn as we look at how people consume the new content or will they choose to ignore it? 

We're not entirely convinced that people are as keen to use LinkedIn as the "De-facto Trade Magazine" source as its owners would like to think, but there is no doubt LinkedIn Today is an interesting start and an aesthetically pleasing element.

Will content suggestions become tiresome for regular users?  Somehow, we doubt that.  From what we've seen so far the system appears to work reasonably well and bodes positively for the future.

With over 3 billion people searches performed on LinkedIn in September 2012, the future looks bright for a platform under increasing pressure from Facebook and Twitter in recent months.




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