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October 31, 2008
LinkedIn: It’s All About the Platform, Baby
 
Professional/career social network LinkedIn continues to feel the pressure from other social networks, particularly Facebook, when it comes to offering users a more lively and engaging environment while maintaining the dignified, professional atmosphere the company has sought to convey.
On Oct. 28, LinkedIn announced its application platform and an initial offering of nine business-oriented applications, each carefully selected to be consistent with LinkedIn’s strategy to be a serious network for grown-ups:
Amazon Reading List: “Extend your professional profile by sharing the books you’re reading with other LinkedIn members.” (Display your Amazon reading list in your LinkedIn profile.)
WordPress: “Connect your virtual lives with the WordPress LinkedIn Application.” (Automatically display your latest WordPress blog posts.)
Box.net Files: “Manage all your important files online (through your LinkedIn profile).”
SixApart’s Blog Link: “Get the most of your LinkedIn relationships by connecting your blog to your LinkedIn profile.”
Company Buzz (A LinkedIn utility): “Ever wonder what people are saying about your company? Company Buzz shows you the Twitter activity associated with your company.”
SlideShare Presentations: “Upload & display your own presentations, check out presentations from your colleagues, and find experts within your network.”
Google Presentation: “Present yourself and your work. Upload a .PPT or use Google’s online application to embed a presentation on your profile.”
My Travel by TripIt, Inc.: “See where your LinkedIn network is traveling and when you will be in the same city as your colleagues.”
Huddle Workspaces: “Huddle gives you private, secure online workspaces packed with simple yet powerful project, collaboration and sharing tools for working with your connections.”
I tried the WordPress application which worked effortlessly and seamlessly to allow me to display the latest posts from my blog in my LinkedIn profile. Right off the bat I saw two features that would make this more useful, the first being the ability to add more than one blog, a feature many LinkedIn users might want given that many maintain both a professional and personal blog; and the second feature would be an “auto-configure” option what would simply “look at” the blogs listed in the user’s existing profile and import any of those that validate as WordPress blogs.
I was extremely impressed by the Google Docs application. I’m ashamed to admit I have never uploaded a presentation to Google Docs before, so there was a very brief learning curve as I added a presentation I gave in March at a Ragan conference in Las Vegas. The presentation uploaded easily to Google, and was in turn displayed quite nicely on my LinkedIn profile. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were the graphics crisp and clear, but the links in the presentation had been preserved through every step of the process.
Unfortunately, Company Buzz, the Twitter utility, was having technical difficulty when I tried to use it, so I can’t comment on it (except to say it had technical difficulty which is never a surprise with Twitter-related utilities.)
In a video on the company’s blog, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman refers to “the LinkedIn platform,” raising the question, is it really a platform? Is there support to allow other developers to create new applications and convert existing applications for use on LinkedIn?
According to TechCrunch:
“LinkedIn has launched its new OpenSocial-based application platform called InApps - an answer to the platforms found on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, but without the clutter and ‘junk’ apps that plague those sites. Unlike most other social networks, LinkedIn apps must go through an approval process before they will go live on the store, and all apps must be deemed ‘professional’ in purpose to appear on the business-oriented social network. To prevent an overwhelming amount of clutter, users will be restricted to including a maximum of 15 applications on their main profile pages, though they will eventually have the option to install more apps on a separate page.”
The introduction of the application platform is just one more in a series of strategic steps the company has taken this year, which include strategic partnerships with CNBC and the New York Times, a $53M round of funding in June, and the introduction last month of the LinkedIn Audience Network, an advertising program designed to help “marketers efficiently reach specific audiences of influential and affluent professionals across hundreds of high quality brand-name publishers.”
According to a September 2008 press release, LinkedIn has over 27 million members, far fewer than either Facebook or MySpace, with somewhere between 50 million and 100 million each, but impressive nonetheless given LinkedIn’s consistency in being a social network (and the apps announcement may confirm that that is indeed what LinkedIn is) for professional development and networking.
Props to LinkedIn for not offering a “buy and sell your LinkedIn friends” app, no poking and no throwing things. It would seem they gave a lot of thought to how the application platform would be implemented in the framework of what LinkedIn wants to be to its base of professional users. Expect to hear more buzz from, and within, LinkedIn the months to come.

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Joel Postman is the principal of Socialized, a consultancy that helps companies make effective use of social media in corporate communications, marketing and public relations. He's the author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, a handbook designed to help corporate communicators and executives understand how to successfully adopt social business strategies in large companies. Prior to founding Socialized, he was EVP of Emerging Media at Eastwick Communications a Silicon Valley public relations firm, and before that, he has a decade of Fortune 500 corporate communications experience, including leadership roles in executive and internal communications at Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

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