LinkedIn means business

Recruiting 60,000 user authors shows LinkedIn means business in the publishing world, says co-founder Allen Blue

Before he co-founded LinkedIn – in fact, before he even worked in the technology sector – Allen Blue had a sense of the importance of communications networks and the competitive advantage they can bring.

In his previous life as a theatre scenery designer in California, he created a set for Richard III with translucent panels so that characters could be seen by the audience plotting in the wings and eavesdropping on the conversations of those in the scene.

It seems prescient, given the revelations by Edward Snowden of the way that the intelligence services in the United States and Britain have been monitoring activities on social media, the world in which Blue is now a power player.

But in truth LinkedIn has largely escaped the reputational damage that the Snowden affair caused to internet firms such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Apple, which were associated with the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance scheme. LinkedIn was a co-signatory to a letter from the tech giants to Barack Obama calling for a ban on mass data collection by spy agencies.

The website’s audience, comprised almost entirely of professional people, must be pound-for-pound the most valuable among the big social media platforms.

Until now, LinkedIn has been seen primarily as a recruitment tool. I met Blue at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit in London last week, where it was suggested that he worked for “a glorified public CV database”. He corrected this impression by setting out LinkedIn’s new plans to become a publishing platform for tens of thousands of articles contributed by its members.

This is a critical moment in the evolution of LinkedIn. The idea is that professional people will offer their insights into the fields in which they have expertise, prompting discussions with their industry peers.

So far only 60,000 LinkedIn users have been invited to be “Authors”, a tiny fraction of the 277 million who have signed up to the site worldwide. Many more will crave the opportunity to enhance their “public CV” by being given the chance to publish their observations. LinkedIn has set up a “Waiting List” for the next generation of authors.

At a higher level on LinkedIn’s publishing roster are the “Influencers”, an elite group that includes Barack Obama, David Cameron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This list has been extended to “C-Suite” executives (CEOs, CFOs, etc) of large or prominent organisations and will, no doubt, be a holy grail of corporate PR people who see how Sir Richard Branson has grown a LinkedIn following of 4.1 million (more than he has on Twitter). Mary Portas and Sir Martin Sorrell have joined a list of Influencers that now stands at 500.

This development should be of concern to traditional publishers. Potentially big name writers for newspaper comment pages have a new platform where they can reach a coveted professional audience. Blue tells me that smart publishers, such as The Economist, The Washington Post and the Harvard Business Review, have seen an opportunity on LinkedIn and are curating “groups” where their articles are discussed. The Economist has 106,000 readers in its group.

The UK is one of LinkedIn’s most developed markets with 15 million members. That includes 375,000 engineers, 49,000 solicitors and 12,500 journalists. More surprisingly, there are 146 chimney sweeps, 59 bodybuilders and five “mermaids” with profiles, in addition to 4,000 farmers, 2,500 detectives and 744 magicians.

Ambitious students – rather than shunning a website populated by older generations – regard having a strong LinkedIn profile as an essential career move. The most-followed companies by British students are Google, Apple, Microsoft, Deloitte and BP, in that order.

Of course, there are lots of people out there looking for new jobs – or better ones. But will these people come to see LinkedIn as a place to go to read articles as well as monitor the career paths of people they know?

At a café table, Blue explains to me why he believes this business-oriented content will find its way to LinkedIn rather than rival platforms, such as Facebook. “The difference is the professional context,” he says.

The first authors on LinkedIn’s open platform have remarked on the high-quality responses they have received compared with the uninformed and even abusive debate that emerges in other forums. “You will see hundreds of comments between commenters and the author,” Blue says.

LinkedIn members, though they might have alter egos on other sites, are still very much in work mode when using this service. “On LinkedIn, you don’t speak anonymously,” says Blue. “You speak on behalf of yourself and your company, so everyone thinks before they shout. It means the conversation is more thoughtful, more civil and very frequently more productive.”

Surveillance isn’t such an issue because LinkedIn is essentially a showcase and naturally outward facing. “On LinkedIn you intend to be public,” says Blue.

The aim is that, in time, all members will have the opportunity to become authors. There are no plans to pay writers for this material but I think it is likely, in an era of ubiquitous management books and TED conferences, that large numbers of members will want to mark themselves out as industry opinion formers by posting articles that are attached to their career profiles.

Blue says that the site has developed technology which ensures contributors cannot exploit it by writing articles that contain crude commercial messaging. The cherished “professional context” will also act as a potentially intimidating quality control on articles published.

“If you produce things that people don’t read, they’re not going to get distributed through LinkedIn; and if you produce things of low quality [the members] are going to tear you down in the comments,” says Blue. “People take what they read on LinkedIn very seriously and no one wants their time wasted.”

You have been warned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map