LinkedIn are on a constant path of change. Jeff Weiner, CEO of the professional networking giant describes this as a state of constant beta. The long term aims of the channel are shrouded in secrecy, but if you keep up with the changes it is easy to see a pattern developing. In the last quarters financial results Weiner commented that the company had made significant investments in increasing their sales team and in developing product. Each time I log in, something looks different or has moved to a different position on the screen. Whilst these changes might seem cosmetic, they are changing the way users are interacting with the platform, and this means recruiters need to be rethinking their LinkedIn strategy.

The trend over time was for using LinkedIn from outside of the channel, with users relying on e-mail and third party applications to interact and keep up. At one time the average user only visited the channel 1.9 times a month. Most notably, engagement levels were low, and the discussion was all around whether LinkedIn was a social channel at all. What is interesting to note is that since the recent redesign of the home page engagement is now at a record level for the channel because users are driven to the home page, and the home page now contains a stream for updates which increases engagement.

One of the other new features enables users to determine which updates get displayed on their home page. The default is for all updates in time sequence, with a refresh button at the top of the stream to show the number of updates since you logged in to the channel. The display options are:

>Top
The most popular updates from your connections (what constitutes popular is explained below this list.)

>Recent
The latest updates.

>LinkedIn Today
Users can customise this according to what topics they want to follow. This is very similar to the way the Mashable social app enables users to choose what content they want to follow by category.

>Connections.
Based on your personal network.

>Shares
What is being shared by your network displayed by time line

>Groups
Updates from your connections in the groups that you share

>Profiles
Changes to the profiles of your connections. This is quite a neat way to keep up to date with what is happening from your connections in one place, from changes to job title, address etc to who is launching a LinkedIn ad campaign.

>Applications
The applications added to profiles by your connections.

>Companies
Changes to company profiles by your network, recommendations and updates.
>Answers
Another neat feature that lets you see all the questions asked and answers given by your network. You can answer this question from this screen or comment, like or share, a great way to engage with your connections when they are reaching out for help or advice.

>Your Updates
Your personal updates including comments,likes and shares.

>Customize
This enables users to determine what type of updates they choose to see or hide, and how many updates they want to see on their home page. If a user is not interested in seeing jobs you may be interested in they can choose to hide them.

LinkedIn are also working on automating moving jobs from the stream (and group discussions) when they are posted as updates. This will clean up the stream and keep it relevant and topical for users. For recruiters, this will also impact on the practice of posting jobs to updates and in to discussions in groups. The only way to reach targeted audience for jobs will be through paid for advertising (most effective), or by posting in the jobs section of groups.

Customisation is a big feature of the new home page because users can edit their own home screen changing the position of the key features and taking out the ones they don’t want. LinkedIn want to give users a personalised experience on their home page, again to encourage use, and making it a destination for users to keep up and engage with their network in one place. The more time users spend in the channel, the more opportunities to serve up PPC and targeted ads based on user behaviour and profile. What i’m seeing among the channels is that their battle is as much about user time as it is about the number of users. Over the last quarter LinkedIn reported a significant increase in ad revenue and a significant increase in sales staff. PPC and ad revenue goes well beyond recruiter products, and it may well be that the company see this as the route away from their dependence on the dominant recruiter revenues. Success in this area is dependent on time spent in channel.

The company have clearly taken some inspiration for this from Facebook and Edgerank, aiming to deliver the most relevant and popular content to the top of the feed via LinkedIn Today. Updates are shared according to the posts that are trending amongst your connections. When you consider that your LinkedIn network is going to be far the most relevant to your objectives by a long way. My own network, which stands at close to 4000 connections comprises of 70% of relevant audience. Others with a smaller network may well have an even higher level of relevance. This means that effective updates are becoming increasingly important because they are far more likely to be seen by the people you want to reach than in any other channel.

LinkedIn shares are ranked according to comments,likes and shares for promoting in the stream between connections. To get “share” points and inclusion in the algorithm the shared content needs to contain a LinkedIn share button first on the list of share options, an important consideration for page design. Retweets count as LinkedIn shares provided the link on the tweet originated from your profile. This means posting to LinkedIn first manually on the home page, and tweeting from the update. This also applies for LinkedIn links posted to Facebook. Even if you are using a posting app like buffer, or a shortner like bitly, use the LinkedIn update as the originating link. By linking all postings back to LinkedIn as the originating source, every action counts as a LinkedIn like, comment or share, and each action will advance the promotion of your content in the channel.

Yesterday, I noticed that LinkedIn have taken the update and share feature from the profile to the home page. This subtle change is quite clever because it drives users to their personal home page rather than their profile, and the more familiar people become with their home page, the more often they are going to use it and review the updates in the stream. The other change of significance is enabling updates from company pages. Again this brings the way LinkedIn works closer to what works on Facebook with pages, enabling users to share updates and communicate with their followers.

Company pages have also added a new feature that gives page admins access to the profiles of who is following the company account. This is the first time recruiters (via the page admin) have been able to see who is connecting with them in order to reach out to anyone who looks of interest. Jobseekers also have access to a similar feature for the page as the one for group statistics. As the company pages are evolving they could become as important as Facebook fan pages for recruiting, especially now that you can post updates from the page. It is going to be interesting to see how these evolve.

Another of the announcements to come out of the last briefing was that LinkedIn are now making it much easier for developers of third party applications.to develop sign ins using their profile, access to updates for monitoring and posting and for integrating share features. Notably, LinkedIn are making it easy for applications that facilitate engagment in groups beyond purely posting in to discussions. This links back to my view of where LinkedIn are positioning themselves among the social media channels. Everything they are developing points to 4 aims:

> To increase engagement between a targeted professional audience without the noise of other channels such as Twitter or Facebook.

> To become the channel for sharing to a targeted and very relevant audience.

> To be the professional reference point for signing in or signing up for any application such as job seeking.

> To become the source for structured professional data and all its applications. This goes well beyond recruiting.

Everything I’m seeing points to great progress in these areas. When you consider your recruiting strategy and how you attract, reach and engage with talent, it is important to consider how the changing face of the channel could impact on your strategy. Time to rethink how you are using LinkedIn for the new age? It is a different place that needs a new approach, and old thinking is just that. Make the most of the changes.

Bill