LinkedIn looks a lot like Facebook on the surface, but underneath it's very different, and not just because LinkedIn is the button-down business social network. LinkedIn's users also use it differently than they use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
Other social networks are about racking up big numbers of connections and getting in group conversations. LinkedIn is about making the one-on-one connection, finding just the right person to fill a busines need.
That makes LinkedIn's profile pages fundamental to the service. Profile pages are what make LinkedIn a combination online resumé, professional directory, and powerful recruitment and B2B marketing tool. On Tuesday LinkedIn announced changes to its profile pages designed to make them better tools for finding connections and for being found.
"We're trying to help every professional in the world be more productive and successful," LinkedIn product manager Aaron Bronzan told me. "All professionals need to connect, find, and be found." The new Profiles, which LinkedIn is rolling out slowly to its users, simplify profile editing and feature new analytics tools to help you find connections.
LinkedIn will display new visualizations of the completeness of profiles, and breakdowns of your networks by company, school, location, and industry. "It helps you understand your profile and how it's working," Bronzan says.
When viewing another person's profile on LinkedIn, you'll see possible connections -- enhanced views of people whose professional background you might have in common.
LinkedIn has more information about the new profiles, along with a crazy-big screenshot showing the new features.
The change is part of a big redesign effort at LinkedIn, code-named "Project Katy," for the singer Katy Perry. The service rolled out new notifications, company pages, and a redesigned homepage. Steve Johnson, LinkedIn's director of design and Web development, told Wired that the redesign is named for Perry because she's a "personification of the state of the world" today (that's Wired, quoting Johnson -- and I'm not sure what it means either). Wired adds: "But don't think of this as the Katy Perry of garish costumes; think of this as the Katy Perry of simple but irresistible pop hooks -- something people keep coming back to."
I admit to being a latecomer to LinkedIn. I'm more used to conversational and broadcast social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Tumblr. I don't claim to be a LinkedIn expert, but I've had some success working it recently. I use it to focus on one person at a time and make connections that way.
It's pretty simple: If I'm looking to contact somebody, and I know their name and the company they work for, I search on LinkedIn (or on Google, which points me to LinkedIn), and then I send them a note using LinkedIn's proprietary InMail messaging system. It's simple, but it works.
InMail, in particular, is brilliant: Spamfighters have been saying for years that spam would be eliminated if it simply cost senders money, even a nominal sum, to send email. Well, InMail does that. If you want to send messages to strangers on LinkedIn, you can get introduced by a mutual connection, or you can just pay to send the message. The payment is affordable -- pricing starts at $19.95 per month for three InMails per month to strangers -- but it keeps the spammers away. And you get a lot more for your premium account. Here's a comparison of the features of LinkedIn premium accounts.
I'm really a newbie at LinkedIn, and looking to share ideas. How do you use it?
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— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution