although its flashier social media cousins have been getting all the press lately, linkedin has had a little work done, too. the latest was today’s announcement about some tweaks to linkedin’s contacts list , but the fun started last fall with more substantive changes to the overall linkedin interface. so what’s up with the suit and tie member of the social media posse?
why linkedin works
UPDATE May 2010: recent enhancements to linkedin’s status update function mean it now makes more sense from a visibility standpoint to cross post from linkedin to twitter. read more here.
linkedin is comfortably established as the most business-friendly of the social networks. an initial conversation always goes easier if the participants have something in common. this is particularly true of business relationships. every salesperson knows a referral is the ticket to an easier pitch, and every job seeker knows that a mutual acquaintance is the quickest way to get in front of the decision-maker. linkedin helps out by tracing users’ personal networks and identifying points of intersection (credit engineroomblog).
launched in 2003, the site has attracted over 40 million members. since its inception, linkedin has been dedicated to business users, and has added features gradually over time. the evolution has included several features to make linkedin more social, from profile pictures and crowdsourced answers (2007) to status updates and groups formed around specific interests (2008) and the ability to cross-post status updates to twitter (2009). the primary user screens looked like this until last fall:
note the side navigation (sorry for blurriness, these are thumbnails from the linkedin site). starting in october, the new design was rolled out gradually, leading to excited calls across the blogosphere, “are you seeing the new design yet?”
and here’s what users see now:
ok, but does any of the shiny new design translate to a better experience or increased functionality for users? early feedback was mixed – users liked the new design okay, but as one commenter opined, “they answered a request that hadn’t been made,” and other users complained about having to learn new locations for features. nothing compared to the firestorms that hit facebook, though.
moving the menu allows dropdowns and a cleaner look, but was certainly not a must-have. the real benefit to users was in making room for linkedin’s vastly improved people search function. “faceted” search allows user to drill down and get more granular in the way they find potential contacts. for example, identifying all linkedin users within a specific geographic area – or narrowing down the list of “tom smiths” to the one you met at the networking reception last night. the new contacts design extends the faceted approach to existing connections:
tags are new to the list of delimiters – the categories by which users can sort their contact list. the default tags are the categories that you define when inviting someone to connect (colleague, friend, etc) but users can add additional tags to get more precise than the categories allow (networking contacts, for example). the enhancements to search within contacts will be most valuable for users with very large lists of contacts. for example, linkedin’s guidelines for invitations specify that you know or have some connection to the person. a subset of linked users, however, known as lions (linkedin open networkers), will accept any invitation to connect. faceted search of contacts will be very helpful for users like this whose ties to connections is more tenuous.
how are you using linkedin? just as a job search tool? for other marketing?
have you noticed the design changes? thumbs up?
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