Last week I wrote a post on the value of a LinkedIn share. The tracking i completed through Visibli led me to rank the value of a share in the channel as 6 x the value of comparative channels. This is mostly due to the greater relevance of LinkedIn networks, which is the most valuable feature of the network in my opinion. I’ve been spending a lot of time investigating the features, and how users are using the channel in order to get a clear view of just what LinkedIn is becoming.

I blogged a while ago that LinkedIn was not really a social site. It was one of my most popular posts in terms of reads. I’m seeing this becoming increasingly true, with less interaction, comments etc, and more people accessing the network and its features externally via e-mail etc. Where I see LinkedIn now is as the professional reference site for people. When you come across anyone new, we are increasingly turning to LinkedIn ahead of Google to check who they are. On my desktop I do it whilst I’m on the phone, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before we will be able to see the headline profiles of people who call us or connect with us on mobile devices so that we can see who and what they are instantly.

Equally, I’m seeing LinkedIn data getting integrated in to other applications as the point of reference. Tools like Salescrunch, which is built for running on-line sales meetings or webinars for groups of up to 40, and Cardcrunch (now owned by LinkedIn) which allows you to scan business cards of people you meet to send out invites,both use profiles to give reference to people’s profiles as you interact with them. I also revisited the chrome application store to view the apps that integrate in a similar way, working via the toolbar.

The search on LinkedIn extension enables you to find company profiles by highlighting any text, and the profile appears in a pop up without leaving the page you are on. You can review a resume/CV and take a look at the listed employers without needing to complete a separate search. Although this covers only company pages at the moment, there are plans to add people profiles very soon. 

Whoworks.At is a great extension or app for recruiters and anyone in a sales or research company. Once you’ve added the extension, you can see who you are connected with on LinkedIn on any website. It’s a great way for quick sourcing or reference in any conversation.

LinkedIn for Chrome lets you view all the updates from your network without logging in to the channel. You can add comments, updates, likes, share via twitter, see profiles and post in to your groups from your toolbar.

Share On LinkedIn enables you to share any content with your network from your toolbar. See any interesting content and you can choose to share it with everyone via updates, with individuals via messages and with groups.

I’ve listed 4 extensions that I use, but there are plenty of others either available or in development. The common trends are that new apps work with Linkedin data and profiles without the need to log in to the channel. The common denominator is that they all enable users to access and interact with the channel as the professional reference point enabling interaction, sharing and review outside of the channel. Central to this is the quality of personal and company profiles and network connections. Each of these applications are controlled by LinkedIn’s strict terms that determines how the data can be used. That means no scraping or storing, with access in to the data coming at the point of inquiry. LinkedIn enforces this rigorously, which means all apps need to follow this, and having a detailed profile is not an option, it’s a necessity. This strict control and enforcement means that access to the API is essential for any recruitment product, and that LinkedIn can determine just how users data gets used. this gives them control over developers, and protects the integrity of the channel. The tough stance is starting to make a lot of sense.

Increasingly LinkedIn profiles are the reference point for sign ups. job applications etc. This will only be multiplied by the increased use of mobile, where form filling is cumbersome and awkward. All of this points towards the channels purpose as THE professional reference point for companies and individuals.

The other area I see LinkedIn focusing is as a specialist source for news and content. The real benefit of LinkedIn networks is the relevance of connections. Looking at my own network, I’m connected with just under 3,500 people. Looking through the connections, 89% have direct relevance to what I do. My network gives me an extended reach of over 16,500,000 people. If you consider the relevance of my network, if the same ratio applies then it’s easy to see how far relevant content can reach.

When I published the sharing post i got an e-mail from Daniel Roth, who is the Executive Editor at LinkedIn, giving me more detail on what they are doing to encourage sharing of news and content. In March LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Today, which was added to increase the exposure and reach of shared content. The analytics behind what gets featured comes from the LinkedIn share button, called InShare, which you can embed in any web place. Each share scores points, and trending storys get featured on LinkedIn Today and the home page of LinkedIn under trending storys.

You can view LinkedIn Today by all news, sector news or individual publishers. On sign-up, users get a choice to follow industries. Theres currently 48 sectors to choose between. Following is by simple tick. You can also choose from an A-Z list of publishers (which includes blogs.) To get on the list of publishers you need to include the LinkedIn button on the sharing options and apply directly to LinkedIn Today for a publisher page. I think that this could be a great source for new, targeted readers in sector. Users can sign up to receive e-mail updates on the trending storys with choice over intervals. Featured content is selected ranked by shares from a wide range of sources. It will also help to achieve this by sharing appropriate posts in to groups. You can do this from updates or the InShare button. Don’t share every post or it will be considered spam, and include an introductory discussion and respond to comments. Groups will multiply your shares and your points. Monitor which groups share which content, so that you can rotate posts according to their topic. It takes a bit longer but it keeps you as a friend rather than foe.

Recently, LinkedIn has been added to the WordPress share features, so there is no need to add any complicated code or embed it in the programs.  This used to be only available in self-hosted .Org blogs. To add the InShare  button go to the settings feature from your dashboard, then the sharing setting, The first section enables you to link your Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Messenger and most importantly LinkedIn. Every time you publish a post, it is added to updates. Right now, you need to update manually if you want to add an image (which increases click-throughs), and some introductory text. I’m sure this will change in the near future, and activating it means you never forget. The other advice I would give is to disable automatic sharing to Twitter, and tweeting direct from your LinkedIn update. My reasoning behind this is that if you share from a LinkedIn update, each retweet counts as a LinkedIn share and is added to your score. Combining Twitter RT’s with LinkedIn shares give you a much greater chance of getting featured as a trending post by combining the channels.

The next section is the sharing buttons that you can add to each post. These now include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, as well as channels like Digg, Stumbleupon, E-mail, Reddit etc. You choose which buttons to feature, and which ones to put behind the share button. You can choose the style of button, and what text you want to add. I have put the LinkedIn button first because I believe that this will lead to the most shares in LinkedIn, which is most likely to be relevant and will earn you points. Choose to feature your share buttons on all pages, posts, archive and other media.

The last bit is the tough bit, you need to create content worthy of sharing. It looks to me that LinkedIn are doing all they can to develop focused content sharing in to targeted networks. I think LinkedIn Today will become an important feature for achieving this, and should form an important part in your content strategy. Enable sharing by adding all the buttons, apply to be a publisher and produce content for this audience.

That brings you up to date on my thinking on where LinkedIn is going as a channel, and how you can get the most out of it. The functions of where LinkedIn should feature in your thinking are:

1) As THE professional reference point for people and companies, accessed in the channel and through third-party applications and extensions.

2) As the sourcing channel by search.

3) For building a targeted network by connections. New applications like Salescrunch and Cardmunch encourage adding connections from other activities. The more targeted the network, the better the share.

4) For sharing, promoting and consuming targeted content with a specific audience.

This is my thoughts on what LinkedIn has become. Less about engagement, and more about reference and targeted distribution. I think we are beginning to get a clear definition of what LinkedIn is as a channel and where it should fit in to our thinking. What is clear, is that it really isn’t a job board.

Bill

Links

LinkedIn Shares

LinkedIn Share Buttons

LinkedIn Today FAQ

Salescrunch

Cardmunch

Chrome Extensions

WordPress Add Share buttons